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    Re: Navigation star names
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2021 Jan 17, 20:25 -0800

    A little explanation: The text I highlighted is from the December 1986 issue of Sky & Telescope, in the Rambling Through the Skies feature. In it George Lovi wrote about "The Navigator's Stars". He quoted a letter to S&T thirty-two years earlier complaining about the ridiculous new star names that had been coined in recent years for the use of navigators: "I sincerely and strenuously object to anyone taking it upon himself the authority to begin a new era of star naming." It's a good point, and the defense from the almanac authorities that navigators would be too easily confused unless we feed them such wonderfully distinct and differentiated names as "Acrux" and "Gacrux" is dubious, to say the least.

    In this image I posted from that issue of S&T highlighting this text denouncing new star names, I also highlighted a star name on the star chart right next to it. That star name is "Dnoces" which is "Second" written backwards (named for astronaut Ed White II --"the second"). This was one of the most recently coined navigational star names strictly for the nav computer in the Apollo spacecraft, a name first used circa 1965, and it's a little hilarious to see this Apollo name hiding there in plain sight right next to this discussion of the "appalling" new navigation star names that had taken place in those pages decades earlier.

    The whole idea that star names are honored by time and that they have "come down to us through the centuries" is largely an illusion anyway. Perhaps you've heard of Altair? You have?? Well, it was nearly unknown as a star name until the middle of the nineteenth century. And that navigation star called Nunki? It's said to be "Babylonian". Ooooh! That's old, huh? Yeah, right. Good luck making sense of that one, but it almost certainly dates from no earlier than 1895 when applied to a star in Sagittarius.

    Just in case anyone was wondering what I was talking about... :)

    Frank Reed

       
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