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    Constellation names.
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2003 Nov 1, 15:49 +0000

    I've been asked to review a French-made device that projects a picture of
    the stars and constellations, for both Northern and Southern hemispheres.
    It's function is similar to that of a planisphere.
    I have been surprised by the names that have been attached to the
    constellations. Here in the UK, we are accustomed to seeing such names in
    star maps in their internationally accepted Latin forms, such as (in
    Northern skies) Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Camelopardalis, Auriga, etc.,
    though we accept as common-usage Plough instead of Ursa Major.
    In this gadget, however, those four names are changed to anglicised forms
    as Big Dipper, Little Dipper, Giraffe, Charioteer. Many others are treated
    in the same way. Similarly, some minor Southern constellations have been
    given unfamiliar (to me) English versions of those 19th century coinages,
    such as Painter, Sails, Compass, Air Pump.
    This isn't going to help anyone who might then wish to look up stars in a
    catalogue that uses the Latin constellation names. Why, I wonder, has the
    maker been tempted to rename so many of the constellations? Is he following
    American practice, perhaps?
    I recall that common American usage for Ursa Major is "Big Dipper", and
    wonder whether perhaps all these renamings conform to modern American
    practice? When American kids learn about the sky in college, how are the
    constellations named in their star maps? How do American mariners, and
    astronomers, choose to name their constellations?
    And how to they do it in Paris, I wonder?
    It seems to be an regrettable recipe for increasing confusion.
    contact George Huxtable by email at george@huxtable.u-net.com, by phone at
    01865 820222 (from outside UK, +44 1865 820222), or by mail at 1 Sandy
    Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.

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