Saturday, April 14, 2012

Professor James B. Kaler - STARS with names


Divine star names
According to the Bible God of Israel calls all the stars He has made in the universe individually by name. He is not a tiny god but the only true God there is. We do not know what kind of naming system He has but we do have some ancient Hebrew and Greek star and constellation names in the Bible.

Praise ye the LORD! For it is good to sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant, and praise is comely.
The LORD doth build up Jerusalem; He gathereth together the outcasts of Israel. 
He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.
He telleth the number of the stars; He calleth them all by their names.
Great is our Lord, and of great power; His understanding is infinite.
The LORD lifteth up the meek; He casteth the wicked down to the ground.
Psalm 147:1-6 KJ21

Human star names
Humans were created in the image of God. Adam was surprisingly given an important task in Garden of Eden to name the animals brought to him for that purpose:

And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air, and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them; and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.
And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found a helper meet for him.
Genesis 2:19-20 KJ21

Well, a helper was created and we, the children of Adam and Eve, continue to give names to all things, animate and inanimate, and we also name stars. After our telescopes became so powerful that we ran out of proper names for all the stars we were now able to see in the night sky we began to use constellation based codes and cataloguing systems and variable star designations to identify each star individually.

So there is Mira named by ancient Arab Astronomers, there is Delta Hydrae in the constellation Hydra, there are and there is 40 Persei, "a massive supernova candidate with a confused name" (Kaler).

Jim Kaler's STARS
Dr James B Kaler
Although the stars look so similar to naked eye, intensive research has noted and explained enormous differences in these cosmic sources of light located at astronomical distances from us.

To learn more about this take a look at the STARS pages. They were created and are continuously updated by Dr. James B. Kaler (1938), Professor Emeritus of Astronomy in University of Illinois. The pages are packed with clearly presented information about named stars. Star of the Week is updated each Friday - the count is currently at 749.

STARS is a professional site but it is not a dull database of astronomical information. Instead, the pages are highly educational and constitute an interesting source of processed data useful to all students of "star research" officially called stellar astronomy.  What can be learned about stars by combining highly accurate observation of starlight properties and star movements with deep theoretical understanding of what stars are?

"Asteroid 1998 JK was named 17853 Kaler in honor of his outreach activities, and in 2008 he received the American Astronomical Society's Education Prize." (wikipedia)

No wonder that STARS site has had over 3.6 million hits which is an astronomical figure for a non-commercial and rather basic website!

I quote from the introduction in the front page of STARS

STARS presents a comprehensive suite of pages that tell the stories of stars and their constellations. Please explore and enjoy. The stars listed below have all appeared as a Star of the Week on Skylights. The first two tables list the stars alphabetically by proper name (where available, otherwise by Greek letter name, catalogue number, or variable star designation). Stars known principally by Flamsteed number are listed in the third table. The fourth table then arranges the stars by Greek letter name within their parent constellations, which are linked to labelled photographs that show the stars' locations.

STARS now contains:

  • 135 photographs of the sky that include all or parts of all the 88 constellations;
  • their labelled versions;
  • all the constellations of the Zodiac;
  • the stories of 749 stars (added to by doubles and multiples) that include:
    • the luminaries of all of the constellations;
    • the 169 brightest stars at least through Minkar (Epsilon Corvi), magnitude 3.00;
    • all the Alpha stars;
  • 57 stars and their planets from the Planet Project (indicated by "#").

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