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Brightest Stars

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Astronomy: brightest stars

This page lists the brightest stars in the night sky, as they appear from Earth. Of the stars in this list, the brightest intrinsically is Rigel (no. 6) – according to Wikipedia, it's "the most luminous star in our local region of the Milky Way".

In the table below, bold print in the Constellation column indicates that this is the brightest star in that constellation. Bold print in the Star column indicates the ones that (in my experience) you are most likely to get asked about – for example, "What's the brightest star in the constellation ... ?"

You might occasionally get asked, "What's the common name for the star Alpha ... ?" (for example, Alpha Orionis – see below). In the majority of cases this is the same as asking what's the brightest star in the constellation in question; but beware, in just over one third of cases it isn't. The system of naming stars Alpha, Beta, etc., within each constellation was devised early in the 17th century by the German astronomer Johann Bayer. Bayer had no means of measuring the brightness of stars accurately, so he just named them according to which of the six magnitude classes they belonged to – which was already established. Within each magnitude class, he generally named them from "top to bottom" as seen from Earth (i.e. the ones closest to the pole came first).

The classic example this anomaly is in the constellation Orion.

The most popular question in this category of course is "What is the brightest star in the night sky?" Any quizzer worth his or her salt will know that the answer to this is "Sirius".

At the bottom of this page I've listed the brightest stars in a couple of other constellations, which don't appear in the main list but which you might get asked about.

Number Star Constellation Location (relative to the ecliptic)
1 Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer Click for more information South
2 Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer South
3 Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer South
4 Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer North
5 Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer North
6 Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer Click for more information North
7 Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer North
8 Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer Equator
9 Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer Equator / South
10 Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer South
11 Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer Equator
12 Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer North
13 Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer South
14 Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer Click for more information North
15 Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer South
16 Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer North
17 Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer North
18 Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer South
19 Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer North
20 Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer South
21 Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer North
22 Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer South
23 Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer North
24 Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer South
25 Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer North

Here, as promised, are the brightest stars in a couple of other constellations:

Algol is the brightest star in Click to show or hide the answer
Polaris (the Pole Star) is the brightest star in Click to show or hide the answer

© Haydn Thompson 2017