How do stars get their names?
The International Astronomical Union (IAU) in Paris is responsible for approving and cataloging names of comets, asteroids, galaxies, and nebulae. The brighter stars get their names from the constellations in which they appear, using Greek letters to rank them. For example, Alpha Centauri would be the brightest star in the constellation Centaurus, the next one is Beta Centauri. Dimmer stars in a constellation get what’s left over after the Greek alphabet has been used up. The IAU then just numbers them. Recently, a very dim starlike object, a brown dwarf, was named GL229B upon its discovery. The B in the name indicates that it orbits the brighter star GL229, and GL refers to a grouping of nearby stars. Not very romantic, eh?
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