A few bright stars associated with every constellation have been named by different cultures. European and Arabic culture names were assigned by early Roman, Babylonian, Greek, Sumerian, and Arab astronomers. Other cultures, such as Native American and Chinese, have their own names for the same stars. The inconsistency of star names necessitated the development of a more systematic method of nomenclature, or naming. We now use brightness as the criterion to label stars within any given constellation. The star with the brightest apparent magnitude in each constellation is named “alpha,” followed by the possessive form of the Latin name for the constellation; the second brightest, “beta,” the third brightest, “gamma,” and so on down through the Greek alphabet. For example, “Capella” has a scientific name of “alpha Aurigae”, “α Aurigae,” or “α Aur” (“Aur” being the abbreviation for Auriga).

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