Every star has a name. Those names from star catalogues and atlases are commonly used among astronomers and we often brag about knowing how to call particular stars on the dome above us. However, many stars have more meaningful names. For example, Arcturus. Have you ever known that local Hawaiians gently call this star Hokulea that roughly translates from local language as “the star that brings happiness”? Medieval Chinese peasants pointed at this star and said that Emperor lived there. Native Americans proudly called it White Hawk.
I remember being thrown in the whirlwind of romance and promising my significant other any star in the sky. I remember how she asked for one of the brightest – Altair. Immediately, this star received a new name, a more meaningful for two of us name – Elizabeth’s star. We grew up and I probably won’t see her again, but up there a star shines brightly and it will always remind me of our romance.
I was not alone. We all give names to stars to make them matter. We name them after our long passed friends and relatives. We announce them our property. We feel closer to them.
Deneb is an amazing star. One that shines for everyone, but I can see more than others. For me, this star is called John. He was a brave pilot and once had to fly over African deserts during the campaign in Iraq. He later participated in many other military operations and hopefully brought the world peace a bit closer. This star warms my heart and serves as a sigil of courage.
Gienah is not just Epsilon Cygni. This star has another name – Patricia. One of my grand aunts who was married to a soldier who had to protect the world from Nazism in 1940s. They were together for less than a year, but she kept loving him. This star is not only a reminder about my relative, but also a way to never forget about the horrors of war and the price of peace.
Sadr belongs to one of my sisters. She works as a scenery editor for a cinema company. She always tells me that there is more behind every picture that I see on the screen. She tells me that we are what we see around us. This star belongs to her because she knows how to inspire me and this is my way to show my gratitude. She doesn’t have to know that there is a star named after her in the sky above, but it makes me feel much closer to the stars.
One of aunts, Allegra, also has a star named after her – Delta Cygni. She is also an astronomer. Allegra managed to influence my whole life and make me more interested in studying astronomy. Without her gentle guiding hand, I would have never discovered a world much bigger than the one I can cross on a plane. There was no other way to make this connection between me and her more memorable than by naming one of the stars after Allegra.
There is also Albireo. There is a special name for that star as well. I named it after one of my ancestors. Thanks to him and his love for written word, I know my genealogy well enough to be able to trace my family back to 8th century. Now, there is a star in the sky – a memorial to my ancestors. Is it enough to express my gratitude? Barely, but I can’t do more than that for those who rest in peace for centuries.
There are other stars. Dozens of them. Each has a name and each became special because it seems like I personally know them. It is a great feeling to have some acquaintances up there in the night sky. When I open a bottle of beer and start looking at the stars, some of them blink back.