Can you tell me about Flamsteed numbers? I just know that it is a specific number used for identification of stars. But what is the theory behind it? In what way is the number given to stars?


Flamsteed designations are assigned by John Flamsteed. He was an English Astronomer.

Flamsteed Designations (Flamsteed Numbers) are numbers assigned to the stars for the purpose of identification and cataloguing. Flamsteed designation contained 2554 stars.

Flamsteed designations for stars are similar to Bayer designations, except that they use numbers instead of Greek letters.

[ Bayer designation is a stellar designation in which a specific star is identified by a Greek letter, followed by the genitive form of its parent constellation's Latin name. The original list contained 1,564 stars. For the most part, Bayer assigned Greek and Latin letters to stars in rough order of apparent brightness, from brightest to dimmest, within a particular constellation. Since in a majority of constellations the brightest star is designated Alpha (α), followed by beta for the 2nd brightest and so on. But this was not the rule always followed by Bayer. Somtimes by position of a particular star in that constellation, sometimes the order of rising up in the sky (the star rises up early will get earlier number), sometimes he follows mythological stories or data or sometimes he even uses his own way of assigning the number.]

In Flamsteed designations, Each star is assigned a number and the Latin genitive of the constellation it lies in. e.g. 52 Cancri is star in the Constellation Cancer and assigned a number 52 according to star's right ascension. i.e. there are 51 stars in the Cancer constellation to the West direction of 52 Cancri star or there are 51 stars that rise before/earlier of 52 Cancri star.

The numbers were originally assigned in order of increasing right ascension within each constellation. [Right ascension is the angular distance measured eastward along the celestial equator from the vernal equinox (it is one of the point of intersection in the space of two imaginary circles: Celestial Equator and Earth's orbit around the Sun. Our Earth is at this point on 21/22 March each year while orbiting around sun.) to the the position of the star. It is measured in degrees but for simplicity and ease of use, mentioned in the form of hours. That the 360 circle is divided into 24 hours (1 hour = 15 degrees). ]

But due to the effects of precession (Top like rotation of Earth's axis of rotatation in the space mataining a constant angle of 23.5 degrees with verticle) they are now slightly out of order in some places.

Flamsteed catalogue don't cover all the stars visible from Earth with naked eye. Flamsteed's catalogue covered only the stars visible from Great Britain, and therefore stars of the far southern constellations have no Flamsteed numbers.

Reference/Information Source/Quoted From:

1) List of constellations for a list of constellations and the genitive forms of their names: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/88_modern_constellations

2)Bayer Designation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayer_designation

3)Flamsteed Designation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flamsteed_designation

  • $\begingroup$ Large portions of this answer were quoted from here and here; you seemed to indicate that they were quoted ([ and ]), but did not attribute the quotes. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Feb 25 '15 at 2:48

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