People sometimes ask us about companies that will name a star after you, or a close friend or relative, for a price. The only place where your star moniker would be deemed “official” is in the ledger sheet of the company that sold you your star. Unfortunately, your new star name would not be recognized by any astronomical observatory or reputable scientific institution, so you might want to save your money.
But more than two centuries ago, someone managed to get a name immortalized in the stars, without spending a penny to do it!
One of the smallest constellations is reaching its highest point in the southern sky at around 11 p.m. this week, Delphinus, the Dolphin. It attracted the attention of ancient watchers of the sky, for despite its tiny size and the fact that it only consists of faint stars, they’re so closely spaced that they are easily seen on dark, clear nights. Here you will find a small diamond with perhaps one or two stars below it. There is something especially charming about it, positioned out in the dark, just east of the bright summer Milky Way. Some reference books refer to the diamond as “Job’s Coffin” though the origin of this name is unknown.
Two stars in Delphinus have rather odd names: Sualocin and Rotanev. They first appeared in the Palermo Star Catalogue in 1814, but nobody seemed to have a clue as to their origin. The English Astronomer, Thomas Webb, finally solved the mystery by reversing their letters, revealing the name of “Nicolaus Venator,” the Latinized form of Niccolo Cacciatore, the valued assistant and eventual successor of Palermo Observatory’s Director Giuseppe Piazzi. But to this day nobody knows whether it was Piazzi or Cacciatore himself who ultimately christened these two stars.