A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Frank Reed
Date: 2021 Aug 19, 09:17 -0700
Nunki is relatively easy to find on most nights, but given the phase of the Moon last night was a tough time to look for it. Of course, if I remember correctly, you (Davud C) have rather severe light pollution, so even on a moonless night, Nunki might be tough.
Nunki is one of the least useful stars in the list of 57 traditional navigational stars (the list which was finalized in 1953, that is). It's tough to shoot for two reasons. It's obviously not very bright, but at magnitude 2.0 or 2.1 that's barely fainter than Polaris, so that can't be the whole story. A bigger problem is that there are seven other stars that are about the same magnitude which are less than 10° from Nunki, anf four of those are less than 5° away. It can difficult to identify the star, especially through a sextant. Those eight stars, counting Nunki, of course form the terrific "teapot" asterism (un-official constellation). Once you learn to spot the Sagittarius teapot, you can't miss it.
The name Nunki is a bit absurd, by the way. It apparently dates from the 1890s in an obscure orientalist article claiming that the name is Sumerian. It's mediocre scholarship, but it got picked up by R.H. Allen, who continues to have an out-sized on star names. Far from being one of the "oldest star names", it's been attached to that star for less than 130 years. It is now, nonetheless, the IAU-approved official name since it has been in wide use by navigators for so many decades.