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Can you name the brightest stars in the night sky?
Enter a star in the box below
Correctly named stars will show up below
Answers do not have to be guessed in order
Source: Hipparcos catalogue via
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Brightest Stars Quiz
Created Jan 7, 2009 in
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Jan 7th, 2009 at 17:16 GMT
lol, nice bonus answer for "Sun"
Comment below threshold:
Jan 7th, 2009 at 17:29 GMT
Betelgeuse is that where the Vogons were from, or was that Ford Prefect? My knowledge of Star Trek should have served me better.
Jan 7th, 2009 at 17:36 GMT
@redalert: Ford Prefect and Zaphod Beeblebrox. The Vogons come from a planet called Vogsphere but I don't think the star's name is ever mentioned.
Jan 7th, 2009 at 17:51 GMT
Wow - i didn't have a scooby on that one. My astronomy knowledge is evidently very limited.
Jan 7th, 2009 at 17:53 GMT
I got three, thanks to a satellite radio company, a character in Pulp Fiction and a movie starring Michael Keaton. :)
Jan 7th, 2009 at 17:54 GMT
I have to admit, I got number 7 from Kang and Kodos.
Jan 7th, 2009 at 18:29 GMT
Jan 7th, 2009 at 18:35 GMT
Why does alpha centauri work, but beta centauri, alpha bootis, alpha aquilae, etc. doesn't work? I like the quiz, but I'm curious about the inconsistency.
Jan 7th, 2009 at 18:45 GMT
Allowing the Beyer designation for all the stars would make the quiz trivial to anyone who spotted the pattern (especially since the brightest star in most constellations is designated alpha). However, I think that Alpha Centauri is much better known than that name that as Rigil Kentaurus, so I added that one as an alternative. Perhaps Beta Centauri should be accepted, as well?
Jan 7th, 2009 at 19:10 GMT
Beta Centauri should probably count. Technically all the Beyer names should count but like you said it would make this a Latin quiz and not an astronomy quiz.
Jan 7th, 2009 at 20:28 GMT
@davidr: That makes sense - thanks for the explanation. I agree that Beta Centauri should probably count, though.
Jan 7th, 2009 at 20:34 GMT
Can you accept betelgeux, which is an alternative version of the spelling...
Jan 7th, 2009 at 22:20 GMT
I got one and it was only a bonus answer.
Jan 7th, 2009 at 23:18 GMT
Great quiz for the start of the International Year of Astronomy. I got 10...not nearly what I should get since I've been studying astronomy for almost four years in college. If they did the Beyer names it would be a tad too easy. Just run through alpha, beta, gamma, delta...by then you'd have gotten it since they're named based on when they're discovered or placed in that system (hence Alpha Orionis is Betelgeuse, not Rigel even though Rigel is brighter). The Arabic, Greek, and Latin based names are much more interesting.
Jan 7th, 2009 at 23:45 GMT
@doorholder: *laugh* What a happy co-incidence! This was just something I thought of in the shower the other morning: I had no idea it was the International Year of Astronomy. It turns out that all the stars in this quiz are are Alpha &mdash, except for Betas Orionis and Centauri.
Jan 8th, 2009 at 00:16 GMT
If you were paying attention during Star Trek, you would have gotten: Aldebaran because of their green whiskey and Altair from the original series episode "Amok Time."
Jan 10th, 2009 at 08:06 GMT
Some of the entries are in fact a system of several stars (for example Rigil Kentaurus is a system containing 4 stars) and the source for this quiz uses the combined magnitude of all the stars in a particular system. If you just took into account the magnitude of the main star the list would be Sirius, Canopus, Arcturus, Rigil Kentaurus, Vega, Rigel, Procyon, Archernar, Betelgeuse, Hadar, Capella A, Altair, Aldebaran, Capella B and Spica.
Jan 10th, 2009 at 12:40 GMT
@Chris: Yes, some of these are star systems rather than single stars &mdash thanks for making that clear. I quoted the brightness of the system because that's what you see when you look at the sky.
Jan 10th, 2009 at 20:25 GMT
@davidr: So does that mean it counts the system rather than the single star wherever they can't be resolved by eye, if I understand you right? By the way, I think the Vogons at some point inhabited a planet in the Frogstar system (which I somehow doubt was real).
Jan 11th, 2009 at 10:41 GMT
@Joe Ball: None of these systems can be resolved by eye and I'm not sure they can all be resoved directly even with large telescopes. The usual techniques, I believe, are to look for stars wobbling and changes in brightness as the components pass in front of one another or to look for the system wobbling about its centre of mass — less precise versions of the same techniques that are used today to detect extrasolar planets. It seems that most stars are, actually, parts of star systems rather than single stars. On this list, numbers 1, 3, 6, 7, 8, 11, 13, 14, 15 (nine out of fifteen) are star systems, though most of them consist of a single bright star with one or more smaller, much dimmer companions.
Jan 12th, 2009 at 17:33 GMT
The sun is permitted as a bonus answer? I don't think it appears in the "night sky" ...
Jan 12th, 2009 at 23:51 GMT
@jkd: Did you read what it writes when you type `sun'?
May 3rd, 2009 at 23:03 GMT
@davidr u are such a freakin nerd, you have made 1/2 of the comments on the quiz
May 13th, 2009 at 19:23 GMT
Technically you see the reflection of the sun off of the moon at night, so you do see the sun in a way.
May 23rd, 2009 at 03:22 GMT
The Sun is the brightest star in the sky, but not in the night sky. The quiz clearly says "Night Sky." This is relative brightness as well, not actual brightness.
Jun 4th, 2009 at 00:35 GMT
Where does Polaris fit in the scale of relative brightness?
Jul 9th, 2009 at 07:54 GMT
@OSUAero: That's hardly `seeing the sun' — the reflection is incredibly diffuse and no image of the sun is formed. It's no more seeing the sun than looking at your hand in an artificially lit room is `seeing a light bulb'.
Jul 9th, 2009 at 08:32 GMT
@WCRoentgen: 48th. Use the source, Luke!
Dec 6th, 2009 at 07:05 GMT
Really disappointing results. Polaris was ranked 49th for the longest time when I was growing up; I would soon begrudgingly find myself on quick draw with this knowledge when my question of "What is the brightest star in the night sky?" directed at any folk--children to adult to elderly--would harvest the answer "...the north star?" at least 95% of the time. Not only have people taken for granted how incredibly rare it is that a noticeably bright star rests almost directly upon a polar circle of precession, they have also projected the added pressure of requiring it to be the most magnificent one in the night sky--as if they know that the "North Star" is famous, yet they can't quite remember why... Terraphile Media: 1 Contemporary western attention span: 0
Dec 6th, 2009 at 07:06 GMT
@tcalleen: my quiz of the top 25 brightest star systems DOES accept Beyer designations, along with the more common alternate names for several of the stars ^_^
May 8th, 2010 at 18:50 GMT
Couldn't get "move on to spy Spica" out of my head, and Spica came in 16th according to the source.
Jul 4th, 2010 at 03:26 GMT
The author of the Greek letter system of star nomenclature was Bayer (not Beyer, as he appears in some comments), in his work from 1603, Uranometria. The idea was to call alpha the brightest star, beta the second, and so on. Of course in 1603 there were no photometers (not even telescopes!) so the brightness scale was an eyeball estimate, and sometimes the brightest star isn't alpha but beta. How were stars known prior to 1603? Well, something like "the star in Andromeda's left knee". Less scientific, but you looked at the constellation and immediately identified the star.
Jan 6th, 2011 at 16:16 GMT
Im so proud i spelled Betelgeuse right the first time i am not that bothered i missed most of the obvious ones
Jun 26th, 2012 at 04:38 GMT
Like others, I certainly thought of some stars due to Star Trek, and also from references in assorted science fiction books (Vega, Capella, Arcturus). But funny that those mentioning Star Trek forgot about Antares! I mean, Uhura has an entire song about it!
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