Say What? "Menkar"

posted: 2560 days ago, on Thursday, 2010 Nov 18 at 11:20
tags: astronomy, stars.

Cetus, the Whale (or the Sea Monster), is a sprawling southern constellation that dates back to ancient times. It is one of the original Greek constellations listed by Ptolemy and can be seen from October to mid-February. Its alpha-star is called Menkar.

Approximate original pronunciation:

mn kr

: short sound, end, best
: short sound, much, come

So this would be something like: men car. You probably don't have to practice this one too much.

The origin of the name is Arabic, al-minkhar, meaning "the Nostrils". However, the name al-minkhar was originally assigned to lamba Ceti in the Almagest (published c. 150 CE). At some later date during the medieval period, the name was assigned in a Latin star table to alpha Ceti, and now we're stuck with it. And lambda doesn't have a cool name.

Menkar is a red giant star - binoculars or a telescope will show its reddish hue (B−V = +1.64). If you wait long enough, Menkar will shed its outer layers to form a planetary nebula. It lies quite close to the Sun (all things considered): just 220 light years away.

Trekkies may recall that Khaaaaaan! and his crew were exiled on Ceti Alpha V, the fifth planet around Menkar.


A Dictionary of Modern Star Names, Kunitzsch and Smart.
Bright Star Catalogue, 5th ed., Hoffleit and Warren Jr.

"Say What?" is a series of articles focusing on the pronunciation of star names. In addition to a star chart showing the location of the star, you'll find guidelines for saying its name and some background on where the name comes from.

nothing more to see. please move along.