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First version August 2013

There isn’t any astronomical guide or star chart without a list of popular names of  deep sky objects. Given the huge amount of celestial bodieslabeled only with a number, the popular names given to them serve as a friendly anchor in a broad and complicated science such as Astronomy

The origin of these names is varied. Some of them come from mythology (Pleiades); others from their discoverer; some describe their shape or singularities; (for instance, a rotten egg, because of its odor); and others belong to a constellation (Great Orion Nebula); etc.

The real popular names of celestial bodies are those that for some special characteristic, have been inspired by the imagination of astronomers and amateurs.

The most complete list is proposed by SEDS (Students for the Exploration and Development of Space). Other sources that have been used to produce this illustrated dictionary are Wikipedia, Astronomy Picture of the Day, Skymap computer program, Cartes du ciel and a large bibliography of THE NAMES OF THE UNIVERSE. 

If you know other name of popular deep sky objects and you think it is important to include them in the popular names’ list, please send it to with at least three references from different websites.

If you have a good photo of some of the deep sky objects, please send it with standard technical specifications and an optional comment. It will be published in the names of the Universe blog. It could also be included in the ILLUSTRATED DICTIONARY OF POPULAR NAMES OF DEEP SKY.