Celestial News: Hectostar — 100 Little Diamonds | SteamboatToday.com

Celestial News: Hectostar — 100 Little Diamonds

Jimmy Westlake
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
The star Sirius is the brightest star in Earth’s night sky. Its name comes from the Greek word that means “scorching” or “searing.” It’s not just a name — it’s a descriptor. Sirius’ faint companion star, nearly lost in its glare, is named Sirius B and, in 1862, was the first white dwarf star discovered. This image was taken through the historic 60-inch Hale telescope at Mount Wilson Observatory.
Jimmy Westlake/Courtesy

Clouds happen, which is why I try to make the most of every clear, twinkly star night that I can. But what do astronomers do on cloudy nights, besides catch up on lost sleep? Well, this astronomer sometimes puts pen to paper to produce poetry. I’ve discovered that words can often capture the beauty of a twinkly star night better than a camera can.

Such was the case one cloudy, autumn night several years ago. The star names Algiedi, Dubhe, Dabih (pronounced aljeedee, doobee, dahbee) kept repeating in my head, over and over, and making me snicker. “Aljeedee, doobee, dahbee. Aljeedee, doobee, dahbee.” I wondered if anyone had ever written a poem or rhyme using only the names of stars, and then, I set out to do just that.

Star names have always delighted me. There are several hundred officially named stars in the sky and, over the decades, I’ve learned many of them by heart. Their ancient meanings give clues to their roles in the celestial drama playing out overhead.

For instance, the star name Betelgeuse comes from the Arabic words for “the armpit of the giant,” because it represents that part of Orion’s anatomy. Another star name, Alpheratz, means “the horse’s navel.” Star names are much more than just names — they are descriptors.

So, I wanted to create a rhyme using the names of 100 of my favorite stars, beginning with the three that tickled me so, Algiedi, Dubhe and Dabih.

In the metric system, the prefix “hecto” means “one hundred,” so a hectometer is 100 meters, a hectogram is 100 grams. I called my new rhyme “Hectostar.”

The star names flowed from my memory and onto the paper almost effortlessly, as if they had been assembling themselves in my subconscious mind for years. In about an hour, “Hectostar” had written itself. Here it is. Enjoy.

HECTOSTAR, by Jimmy Westlake

Algiedi, Dubhe, Dabih,
Deneb, and Betelgeuse.
Merak, Merope, Kochab,
and Miaplacidus.
Navi, Nunki, Mira,
and Pulcherrima, too.
and little Eta Boo.
Rasalgethi, Rasalhague,
Nashira, Shaula, Caph.
with Vega, Chort, and Saiph.                            

Sualocin and Rotanev
Bellatrix, Rigel, Choo.
Sheratan and Alpheratz,
and Cor Caroli, too.

Don’t forget Antares,
nor Sirius and Maaz,
Procyon, Albireo,

Alderamin and Kraz.
Fomalhaut and Sheliak 
with Vindemiatrix.

Alshain, Altair, and Tarazed,
Alphard and Aspidiske.              

Gemma, Gienah, Alnitak,
Mintaka, Alnilam.
Mimosa, Castor, Pollux,
Muscida, and Mirzam.                 

Capella, Algol, Rastaban,
Acubens, Propus, Keid.
Dschubba, Cursa, Achernar,
Kornepheros and Beid.              

Cujam, Zosma, Porrima,
with Rukbat, Naos, Ain.

Aldebaran and Algorab,
Matar and Muhlifain.                                
Markab, Scheat, and Algenib,
Polaris and Menkar.

Enif and Zavijava,
Arcturus and Mizar.                                 

Arneb, Nihal, Canopus,
Alrescha, Sadalsuud.

Regulus, Denebola,
Gomeisa and Furud.

Wezn, Phact, Alcyone,
Thuban, and there you are.

One hundred little diamonds
that make a hectostar.

In case you are wondering, Algiedi, Dubhe, and Dabih mean, respectively, “the billy goat,” “the bear,” and “the butcher.”

For information about astronomy-related events in Steamboat Springs, including public star parties at CMC’s Ball Observatory, contact physics and astronomy instructor Paul McCudden, at pmccudden@coloradomtn.edu or 970-870-4537 or visit the SKY Club web page at http://www.coloradomtn.edu/skyclub

Jimmy Westlake is adjunct professor of Physical Sciences at Colorado Mountain College and former Director of the Rollins Planetarium at Young Harris College in Georgia and the St. Charles Parish Library Planetarium, in Luling, Louisiana. His “Celestial News” column appears monthly in the Steamboat Pilot & Today newspaper. Check out Jimmy’s astrophotography website at http://www.jwestlake.com.

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