Arabic in the Sky

An article in Aramco World about the history of naming stars.

Scholars have identified 210 visible stars that carry Arabic names, some of which preserve older names that date back to Babylon and Sumeria. In this illustration, the 30 brightest stars with Arabic names appear as eight-pointed stars, in sizes adjusted for their relative magnitudes, or brightnesses. some 210 of the brightest and most visible stars have modern names of Arabic origin.

Most of the Arabic star names we use today can be traced back to the star catalogue of the astronomer al-Sufi, known in medieval Europe as Azophi. His full name was Abu 'l-Hussain 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Omar al-Sufi, and he is recognized today as one of the most important scientists of his age.

This article is written by Robert W. Lebling, a writer and communication specialist based in Dhahran and a longtime contributor to Saudi Aramco World. His latest book is Legends of the Fire Spirits: Jinn and Genies from Arabia to Zanzibar (I.B.Tauris, 2010)