Over the past few centuries, a small number of stars have been named after individual people. It is common in astronomy for objects to be given names, in accordance with accepted astronomical naming conventions. Most stars have not been given proper names, relying instead on alphanumeric designations in star catalogues. However, a few hundred had either long-standing traditional names (usually from the Arabic) or historic names from frequent usage.
In addition, many stars have catalogue designations that contain the name of their compiler or discoverer. This includes Wolf, Ross, Bradley, Piazzi, Lacaille, Struve, Groombridge, Lalande, Krueger, Mayer, Weisse, Gould, Luyten and others. For example, Wolf 359 was discovered and catalogued by Max Wolf.
The naming of astronomical bodies is controlled by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), which lays down strict standards for this naming.
In July 2014 the IAU launched a process for giving proper names to exoplanets and their host stars, the outcome of which was announced in December 2015. As a result, the IAU approved two star names after individuals:
- Cervantes for the star Mu Arae honoring the writer Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
- Copernicus for the star 55 Cancri A honoring the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus
In 2016, the IAU organized a Working Group on Star Names (WGSN) which will catalog cultural and historical names for bright stars to help preserve astronomical world heritage, and maintain a catalog of IAU-approved unique proper names for stars. The WGSN's first bulletin of July 2016 set out its terms of reference and naming guidelines. All approved names are included on the current List of IAU-approved Star Names, last updated on 1 June 2018. The WGSN confirmed the names Cervantes and Copernicus and has additionally approved four star names after individuals:
- Barnard's Star, the fourth-closest star to the solar system, named after the American astronomer E. E. Barnard who discovered it has the highest known proper motion of any star.
- Cor Caroli (Latin for 'heart of Charles') for the star Alpha Canum Venaticorum, so named in honour of King Charles I of England by Sir Charles Scarborough, his physician.
- Sualocin and Rotanev for components of Alpha and Beta Delphini, two stars which appeared in the Palermo star catalogue of 1814. They were eventually identified as the reversed spelling of Nicolaus Venator, a Latinised version of Nicolò Cacciatore, assistant to the astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi. It is not clear whether Piazzi intended to name the stars after his assistant, or if Cacciatore made the names up himself.
Apart from the few formally approved by the IAU, and leaving aside commercial attempts, stars named after individuals fall broadly into two groups. The first group are those named openly for an individual connected with them in some way. The second, somewhat more obscurely, are those named after an individual but without explicitly making this clear.
Openly named stars
There is a growing number of stars whose common names honour individuals. Many of these were highly significant in some way when discovered, usually through having some unusual characteristic. The best source to get these names is Sky Catalogue 2000.0, Volume 2 (Double Stars, Variable Stars, and Nonstellar Objects), in the chapter Glossary Of Selected Astronomical Names.
- Abt's Star is ADS 8115 (HD 98088) in Crater. Named after Helmut Abt.
- Al Sufi's Cluster is the open star cluster Collinder 399 in Vulpecula, aka Brocchi's Cluster or "the coathanger".
- Andrews' Star is a suspected variable star in Auriga (HD 37519 / SAO 58319 / HR 1938). Named after A. David Andrews.
- Anthelm's Nova/Star is Nova 1670 Vulpeculae, observed by Anthelme Voituret (aka père Anthelme / don Anthelme).
- Argelander's Star is Groombridge 1830, a high proper motion star. Named for Friedrich Wilhelm Argelander, who discovered its high proper motion in 1842.
- Argelander's second star is Lalande 21185, a nearby red dwarf star. Named also for Argelander, who discovered its high proper motion in 1857.
- Baade's Star is the Pulsar in the Crab Nebula (Messier 1, Taurus). Also known as the Crab Pulsar, or PSR B0531+21.
- Babcock's Magnetic Star is HD 215441 in Lacerta.
- Becklin's Star is IRC -10093 in Messier 42, Orion. Named after Eric E. Becklin.
- Bessel's Star is 61 Cygni, for a short time the nearest star whose distance was accurately known (measured by Friedrich Bessel in 1838). Also called Piazzi's Flying Star, since Giuseppe Piazzi nominated it as a good candidate for distance measurements (parallaxes).
- Bidelman's helium variable star is V761 Centauri (HD 125823). Named after William P. "Billy" Bidelman.
- Bidelman's peculiar star is KS Persei (HD 30353).
- Bidelman's Star is HD 127617 in Bootes.
- Bond's Flare Star is V3885 in Sagittarius (Sky Catalogue 2000.0 shows wrong coordinates, in Pisces).
- Borrelly's Star is probably S Ceti (0h 23.8m / -9° 28'). Source: Deep-Sky Name Index 2000.0, Hugh C. Maddocks (Foxon-Maddocks Associates).
- Boyajian's Star (or Tabby's Star) is KIC 8462852, an F-type main-sequence star with a highly unusual light curve in the constellation of Cygnus, named after Tabetha S. Boyajian; its peculiar characteristics engendered speculation that a Dyson sphere of an extraterrestrial civilization had been discovered.
- Branchett's Object (Star) is a possible Nova in Scutum (1981).
- Brendan Downs Supernova is SN 1997de, in Pavo (in galaxy NGC 6769).
- Brewer's Star is HD 50169 (a magnetic star) in Monoceros.
- Brocchi's Cluster is the open star cluster Collinder 399, aka "the coathanger" in Vulpecula. Named after Dalmero Francis Brocchi, a member of the AAVSO (American Association of Variable Star Observers). See also Al Sufi's Cluster
- Butler's Star is a Flare Star in the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC).
- Caffau's Star is an ultra-metal-poor halo star named after the astronomer Elisabetta Caffau.
- Campbell's Star is HD 184738, which is the nucleus of planetary nebula PK 64 + 5.1, in Cygnus.
- Cayrel's Star is an ultra-metal-poor halo star named after the French astronomer Roger Cayrel.
- Chanal's variable star is a suspected variable star in Orion (NSV 2229).
- Chavira's Supernova is SN 1965h in NGC 4666 (in Virgo).
- Chevremont's Star is a variable star in globular cluster Messier 2, in Aquarius.
- Chuadze's Supernova is SN 1967c in NGC 3389 (in Leo).
- Chu's Object (Star?) in Perseus (see Sky Catalogue 2000.0, Volume 2, page xlvi, Glossary of Selected Astronomical Names).
- Cohen-Schwartz Star is a T Tauri type star and infrared source in Orion.
- Eggen's Nearby Star is CoD -31°622 in Sculptor. Briefly thought to be near the solar system but later found not to be (see Sky and Telescope, 53, February 1977, page 107).
- Fehrenbach's Star is HD 116745 in globular cluster Omega Centauri.
- Herschel's Garnet Star is Mu Cephei, a red supergiant particularly remarkable for its deep red color, first described by William Herschel.
- Herschel's Wonder Star is Beta Monocerotis, see Sky and Telescope 1/2005, page 101.
- Hind's Crimson Star is R Leporis, a long-period variable star, named after the discoverer John Russell Hind. It is one of the reddest stars visible (a typical Cool Carbon Star, CCS).
- Hind's New Star is Nova Ophiuchi 1848.
- Hoffmeister's Star is V442 Cassiopeiae (aka Sonneberg 9484).
- Honda's Variable Star is a Long-Period Variable (not Nova) in Cygnus (source: Sky Catalogue 2000.0, page xlvii; Glossary of Selected Astronomical Names).
- Hulse-Taylor Binary is PSR B1913+16 (a Pulsar, a radiating neutron star) in Aquila.
- Huruhata's Object is an Eclipsing Binary in Canis Minor.
- Huruhata's Variable is the WZ Sagittae type dwarf nova EG Cancri.
- Innes' star, better known as LHS 40, is a high proper-motion star named after the discoverer of Proxima Centauri. In 1930 Luyten listed this as the fifth-closest star system, but his belief was mistaken as it turned out to be 41 light-years away.
- Kapteyn's Star, a subdwarf, was discovered in 1897 by Jacobus Kapteyn, the star with the highest known proper motion at the time of its discovery.
- Kemble's Cascade Star Chain is a chain of stars in Camelopardalis, discovered by Father Lucian Kemble.
- Kepler's Star, name given to the supernova later designated SN 1604 when first observed, after Johannes Kepler, who studied it extensively though he did not have priority of discovery.
- Klemola's Star is BD +10°2179 (SAO 99230) in Leo.
- Krzeminski's Star is a blue supergiant, part of the pulsar Centaurus X-3, discovered by the Polish astronomer Wojciech Krzemiński in 1974.
- Kurtz's Light Variable Star is HD 188136 in Octans.
- Kuwano's Object/Star is the Nova-like object PU Vulpeculae.
- Lamont's Star is a peculiar star near the nucleus of the Andromeda Galaxy (Messier 31).
- Liller's Star is a star near Centaurus X-3.
- Lovas's Supernova is SN 1964e in MCG 9-20-51 (in Ursa Major).
- Luyten's Star, another red dwarf, is named after Willem Jacob Luyten, its discoverer.
- Luyten's Flare Star is a nearby UV Ceti variable (L 726-8), see Burnham's Celestial Handbook, page 641.
- Merrill's Star is a high-velocity Wolf-Rayet Star at the nucleus of planetary nebula PK 50+3.1 in Sagitta.
- Olbers' Star is a peculiar star in Virgo (mentioned in the Deep-Sky Name Index 2000.0 by Hugh C. Maddocks) (Foxon-Maddocks Associates).
- Osawa's Star is V436 Cassiopeiae (HD 221568). Source: Sky Catalogue 2000.0 (page xlviii, Glossary of Selected Astronomical Names).
- Pazmino's Cluster is the open star cluster (or rather: asterism) Stock 23 in Camelopardalis (discovered by John Pazmino).
- Pearce's Star is AO Cassiopeiae (see Burnham's Celestial Handbook, page 503).
- Persson's Star is V733 Cephei, an FU Orionis type object.
- Piazzi's Flying Star, see Bessel's Star.
- Plaskett's Star (also designated HR 2422) is one of the most massive binary stars known, with a total mass of about one hundred times that of the Sun. It is named after John Stanley Plaskett, the Canadian astronomer who discovered its binary nature in 1922.
- Platais' Oddball is the open star cluster NGC 6791 in Lyra. Named after astronomer Imants Platais.
- Popper's Star is HD 124448, a hydrogen-deficient star in Centaurus.
- Przybylski's Star (also designated HD 101065) is a star that shows unusually high abundance of lanthanide elements in its spectral lines, named for Antoni Przybylski.
- Ptolemy's Cluster is the open star cluster Messier 7 (NGC 6475) in Scorpius.
- Roberts-Altizer Variable Star is a Galactic U Geminorum star near NGC 3147, in Draco.
- Rosino's Supernova (not much information about it in the Sky Catalogue 2000.0, Volume 2) (no coordinates).
- Rosino-Zwicky Object (Star) is a variable star near Messier 88 in Coma Berenices.
- Sakurai's Object (also designated V4334 Sgr) is an unusual red giant, named after Yukio Sakurai.
- Sanduleak's Star is a possible symbiotic star in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC).
- Sanduleak-Pesch Binary Star is a white dwarf binary in Hercules.
- Sanduleak-Stephenson Star/Object is also known as Sanduleak-Stephenson 433, SS433 in Aquila, a neutron star in radio source W50.
- Schaeberle's Flaming Star is the source of the Flaming Star Nebula IC 405 (aka Cederblad 42) in Auriga.
- Scheiner's Star is BD +15°2083 (HD 83225) in Leo (see Sky Catalogue 2000.0, page xlix, Glossary of Selected Astronomical Names).
- Sidus Ludoviciana, an 8th-magnitude star in the asterism of the Big Dipper in the constellation Ursa Major, halfway between Mizar and Alcor. It was discovered on 2 December 1722 by Johann Georg Liebknecht, who mistook it for a planet and named it after Louis V, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt.
- Scholz's star is a late-M dwarf + T-type brown dwarf (M9.5 + T5) system, discovered in 2013 by Ralf-Dieter Scholz. It has large parallax, but relatively small proper motion, and it is known for its close flyby to the Sun about 70,000 years ago.
- Schweizer-Middleditch Star is a star near the center of Super Nova Remnant 1006 in Centaurus.
- Scotty Houston's hole-in-a-cluster is the open star cluster NGC 6811 in Cygnus. Named after Walter Scott "Scotty" Houston, one of the most dedicated amateur-astronomers and popularizers of telescopic observing of deep-sky objects.
- Sneden's Star is a giant star, named after Chris Sneden. The star is known for its high-resolution spectroscopic observations.
- Stepanian's Star is LX Serpentis, a 14th magnitude Flare Star (?).
- Tabby's Star, see Boyajian's Star.
- Teegarden's star, a nearby star discovered in 2003 in archived data taken years earlier for NASA's Near Earth Asteroid Tracking program. The star is named in honor of Bonnard J. Teegarden, the NASA astrophysicist that led the discovery team.
- Tombaugh's Star is TV Corvi (see Sky and Telescope 6-2005, page 108).
- Tycho's Star, name given to the supernova later designated SN 1572, after Tycho Brahe, though he did not have priority of discovery.
- Van Biesbroeck's Star is VB 10, a very small, faint, red dwarf named after George Van Biesbroeck, who discovered it in 1944 – the smallest and faintest star then known.
- Van Maanen's Star is a white dwarf, discovered in 1917 by Adriaan van Maanen, only the second white dwarf discovered.
- Wachmann's Flare Star is V371 Orionis.
- Walborn's Star is a Wolf-Rayet Star in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) in Dorado.
- Warren and Penfold's (WP) Star is the optical counterpart of X-3 in the Large Magellanic Cloud.
- Wild's Supernova is SN 1966j in NGC 3198 (in Ursa Major).
- Wischnjewsky's Supernova in Fornax A.
- Zealey-Lee Supernova in the nucleus of an anonymous galaxy in Grus.
Covertly named stars
Some stars were given names that were disguised names of individuals, which names subsequently appeared in star catalogues and thus into more general usage.
The earliest noted example was Sualocin and Rotanev, which names have now been approved by the IAU WGSN (see above). More recently, during the Apollo program, it was common for astronauts to be trained in celestial navigation, and to use a list of naked-eye stars which to take bearings. As a practical joke, Gus Grissom gave names to three stars on this list, which were references to the three Apollo 1 crew:
- Navi for the star Gamma Cassiopeiae and which is Ivan spelled backwards, the middle name of Virgil Ivan "Gus" Grissom.
- Dnoces for the star Iota Ursae Majoris and which is Second spelled backwards, alluding to Edward Higgins White, II.
- Regor for the star Gamma Velorum and which is Roger spelled backwards, the first name of Roger Bruce Chaffee.
The names stuck, perhaps in memoriam for their deaths in the Apollo 1 fire, and were used through the rest of the program. Unknown to Grissom, these stars already had traditional names; however, those were not generally used, allowing the three new names to make their way into other records. Today, they are generally considered disused—some sources listing them as "traditional".
It is possible, though unlikely, that further traditional names are in fact hidden names such as these, not yet identified; etymologies for many star names are not currently known.
Whilst many private companies will offer the "right" to name a star, for a fee, they have no legal standing to assign any star a name, and can offer no guarantee of the name being noted. The IAU does not recognize this practice, and on its website describes it as "charlatanry".
- IAU Working Group on Star Names
- List of minor planets named after people
- List of people with craters of the Moon named after them
- Stellar designations and names
- "NameExoWorlds: An IAU Worldwide Contest to Name Exoplanets and their Host Stars" (Press release). IAU.org. 9 July 2014.
- "Final Results of NameExoWorlds Public Vote Released" (Press release). IAU.org. 15 December 2015.
- "NameExoWorlds". nameexoworlds.iau.org.
- "IAU Working Group on Star Names (WGSN)". Retrieved 22 May 2016.
- "Bulletin of the IAU Working Group on Star Names, No. 1" (PDF). Retrieved 28 July 2016.
- "Naming Stars". IAU.org. Retrieved 17 June 2018.
- R.H. Allen, Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning.
- Robert Burnham, Jr. Burnham's Celestial Handbook, Volume 1, p. 359.
- Ian Ridpath: "Star Tales", Canes Venatici. See also Deborah J. Warner, The Sky Explored: Celestial Cartography 1500-1800.
- "Innes\' star". simbad.u-strasbg.fr.
- "Buying Stars and Star Names". IAU. Retrieved 10 September 2015.