Q and BA Episode 7: By Any Other Name

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Mar 18, 2007
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Due to my travel schedule, I am posting this one early. I hope no one minds.

Astronomical objects have a bewildering array of names. Is it M1, or The Crab Nebula, or NGC 1952, or what? Why are there so many weird names for these things?

Find out in this week's episode of Q & BA: By Any Other Name.

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Show notes

The Question:

The question was sent in by Teri Bootelaydi:

What is the rational behind the naming and numbering of astornomical objects?!?!

I have shelves full of astronomy books and magazines, and close to a thousand sites and 'papers' in my Bookmarks -- and not one -- NOT A SINGLE ONE -- explains the logic behind these labels. It's a nightmare for an amateur to learn.

It's as if the IAU gets together behind closed doors and laughs at us.

Images and Links

The image of Charles Messier is from the French version of Wikipedia.

The Comet SWAN picture is from makelessnoise's Flickr collection (usage is under the Creative Commons license). That's a meteor streak next to it! Pretty cool shot.

The Orion Nebula image is from Space Ritual's Flickr collection (again, Creative Commons).

The image of Sirius is from Hubble.

All the myriad names for Sirius are from SIMBAD, an astronomical database.

The Crab Nebula is from the Subaru Telescope.