A very bright, bluish-white supergiant star in the constellation Orion. It is a binary star, with an average apparent magnitude of 0.12. Scientific name: Beta Orionis.
Word History The history of astronomy owes much to Arabic scientists of the Middle Ages, who preserved the astronomical learning of ancient Greece and made improvements on it. The English names of many of the brightest stars in the heavens are Arabic in origin. The name of the supergiant star Rigel, for example, comes from the Arabic word for “foot” (the foot of the constellation Orion, that is). Some other important stars whose names are Arabic include Aldebaran, “the one following (the Pleiades)”; Betelgeuse, “hand of Orion”; Deneb, “tail” (of the constellation Cygnus, the swan); and Altair, “the flying eagle” (in the constellation Aquila, the eagle). The names of other stars are usually Greek or Latin, such as Antares or Sirius, as are the names of the constellations.