Zodiac Stars

by John P. Pratt
updated 10 Feb 2016

Listings of zodiac star names and designations, brightness and positions in sidereal coordinates with maps.

This article lists names, brightness and position for most of the brightest visible stars in the twelve zodiac constellation figures. "Zodiac" refers to the set of twelve constellations through which the sun and planets appear to move because the earth and other planets are located in approximately the same plane (see Fig. 1). Make sure you understand that illustration before going on, so it will all make more sense.

Fig. 2 shows the circle of the 12 zodiac constellations. This article contains the tables from which this star map was made. The article is mostly just for reference, but it does contain an explanation of how to understand the map.

The outer black circle is called the "ecliptic" (because that is where eclipses occur). It is the path on which the sun appears to travel clockwise through the heavens once each year. Thus, the sun moves through each of the twelve zodiac constellations about at a rate of about one per month. Astronomers measure the angular position of stars along that circle and call it "celestial longitude". That is one way to specify exactly where a star appears to be, assuming they are all at the same distance on a transparent "celestial sphere" (which of course they are not). The angular distance inside or outside of that ecliptic circle is called the "celestial latitude".

There is a problem with celestial longitude: the place from which astronomers begin their measurement is continually moving around the ecliptic circle. That zero-point is called the "vernal equinox", and its position on the ecliptic in a given year is shown in Fig. 2 under the fish in the "6 o'clock" area. The number 2000 (meaning AD 2000) under the knot in the tail of that fish shows about where it is today. That motion requires star maps to be updated every fifty years or so, which is troublesome.

Frustrated that the zero-point moves, and wanting "permanent" star coordinates, this author has defined "sidereal coordinates" (see "Coordinates for the Constellations"), including both sidereal latitude and longitude. "Sidereal" refers to stars, so it means a system based on the actual location of the stars and not tied to the moving earth, as is the vernal equinox. Sidereal longitude is measured in degrees from a fixed star (the left eye of Virgo in Fig. 2). For most practical purposes, the value remains fixed over time, solving the map-drift problem. Sidereal latitude refers to the usual ecliptic latitude, which remains relatively fixed (listed as of 2000).

As an example of how to read sidereal longitude, the lines shown dividing the constellations are exactly 30° apart from each other. Thus, looking at Virgo (the Maiden), the first zodiac constellation, we see a bright star (big black dot) in the stalk of grain she holds in her left hand. It is called Spica, meaning "ear of wheat". The first line past it is the 30° line, so we can estimate from the figure that the sidereal longitude of Spica is about 26°. This article lists the sidereal longitude of all the main stars in the zodiac figures.

Each star position on this map was carefully calculated according to its exact sidereal latitude and longitude. Moreover, a serious attempt was made to show the location of each star in the figure precisely according to the descriptions in Ptolemy's ancient Greek star catalog. Stars not actually located in the figures as described by Ptolemy are not included. Because I could not find such an illustration, back in 1990 I hired an artist to draw it according to my specifications. The only exception is the Scales, which Ptolemy did not include. Star names were used in that case to draw the figure.

At the 2 o'clock position, there is a V-shaped break that cuts the legs of the scorpion, and a similar break in the lion's forelegs. The V is only shown if it cuts between stars in a figure, but there is really an implied "V" cut like that at every one of the 30° lines of longitude from the clock numbers. The V is caused because the map is of the overhead spherical-appearing dome of stars, and beyond the ecliptic the pictures begin to converge toward each other, even as the ones inside the ecliptic converge to a point at the center of the circle. Think of printing out this map and then cutting along the sides of the V-shape, and taping those two edges together to approximate the spherical shape being represented on the map.

The first three columns of the following tables contain the usual star designation, which uses Greek letters usually ordered by brightness. It lists traditional names used by astronomers, with the symbol ~ used to give the translation in the Notes. The English column is my personal choice, which is based on ancient sources unless my initials JPP are added, meaning that no such sources are known to me of what appears should be the name.

The column Mv lists the "Visual Magnitude". That refers to the brightness of the star, with first magnitude being the brightest and sixth the dimmest. All the stars in the Big Dipper are of second magnitude. Stars brighter than 3.0 are listed in italics, and those brighter than 1.6 are also in bold. Then the sidereal latitude and longitude are listed in degrees.

In the Notes, LM indicates my choice for "Lunar Mansion", one of a set of 28 stars spaced about every 13° around the ecliptic. That is approximately the angle that the moon travels every day through the stars. Along with my LM choices, the Arab and ancient Babylonian versions are also listed, taken from Allen's Star Names, Their Lore and Meaning, where he quotes Epping. My choices are shown in italics.

Virgo (Maiden)

StarNameEnglishMvLat.Long.Notes
ξ Vir Laurel4.96.1150355.7766Crown of Laurel - JPP
ν Vir  4.04.5860356.6004
β VirZavijavaWing3.60.6941359.6050LM 1 (Arab 11, Bab. 18)
π Vir Leader4.76.15280.0000JPP. Zero-Point of Sidereal Longitude
ο Vir  4.18.52470.1355
η VirZaniah 3.91.36537.2732
ε VirVindemiatrixBranch2.816.204812.3812~Grape-Gatherer
γ VirPorrimaRoot2.82.790212.5821LM 2 (Bab. 19). Root of the grain stalk.
δ Vir Maiden3.48.613313.9018
θ Vir  4.41.742820.6782
ζ Vir Robe3.48.636224.5753JPP
α VirSpicaSeed1.0-2.054726.2824~Ear of Wheat. LM 3 (Arab 12, Bab. 20)
τ Vir Stem4.313.062330.1897Stem of the Branch - JPP
ι Vir  4.17.199436.2382
λ Vir Foot4.50.490539.3931LM 4
μ Vir  3.99.671842.5720

Libra (Scales)

StarNameEnglishMvLat.Long.Notes
μ Lib  5.42.032246.6083
α LibZubenelgenubiLight2.80.333047.5235~Southern Claw. Also "Southern Light". (Arab 14, Bab. 21).
δ Lib  4.98.246447.7236
β LibZubeneschamaliPrice2.68.495951.8125~Northern Claw. Also "Northern Light" or "Tray" (of scale) LM 5 (Bab. 22)
ι Lib  4.5-1.849653.4457
γ Lib  3.94.385757.5791
κ Lib  4.7-0.019460.1983

Scorpius (the Scorpion)

StarNameEnglishMvLat.Long.Notes
π Sco  2.9-5.475365.3807
β ScoGraffias 2.61.007865.6308 LM 6 (Arab 15, Bab 23)
σ Sco  2.9-4.037470.2405
ω Oph  4.50.432772.0684
α ScoAntaresHeart1.0-4.570072.2030~Rival of Mars; Scorpion's Heart. LM 7 (Arab 16, Bab 24)
τ Sco  2.8-6.120673.8977
ε Sco  2.3-11.738777.7761
μ Sco  3.0-15.423378.5965
ζ Sco  3.6-19.644079.6782
η Sco  3.3-20.183683.1835
θ Oph  3.3-1.843583.8355Bab. 25.
υ ScoLesath 2.7-14.008486.4532~Sting
λ ScoShaulaSting1.6-13.788587.0266~Sting. LM 8 (Arab 17)
θ ScoGirtab 1.9-19.645188.0403
κ Sco  2.4-15.644488.9098
ι Sco  3.0-16.714489.9632

Sagittarius (Archer)

StarNameEnglishMvLat.Long.Notes
γ SgrAlnaslPoint3.0-6.991093.7021~Point. Arab. 18, with μ.
μ Sgr  3.92.342095.6540
η Sgr  3.1-13.377996.0686
δ SgrKaus MediaBow2.7-6.472597.0217~Middle of Bow
ε Sgr  1.9-11.051997.5194
λ SgrKaus Borealis 2.8-2.135698.7579~North part of bow.
φ Sgr Arrow3.2-3.9540102.6220
σ SgrNunki 2.0-3.4494104.8258LM 9
ν Sgr  4.80.1099104.9122
ξ Sgr  3.51.6613105.8917
ζ Sgr  2.6-7.1790106.0789
τ Sgr  3.3-5.0886107.2748
o Sgr  3.80.8599107.4347
β SgrArkab 3.9-22.1445108.2167
π Sgr  2.91.4372108.6922Arab 19.
α SgrAlrami or Rukbat 4.0-18.3802109.0765
χ Sgr  5.0-2.4890111.7768
ρ Sgr  3.94.2241111.8907
υ Sgr  4.66.0960112.1687
52 Sgr  4.6-3.2594114.2881
ι Sgr  4.1-20.6591114.9972
θ Sgr  4.4-14.3857117.3107
ω Sgr  4.7-5.4218118.2915LM 10
62 Sgr  4.6-7.1060119.5069

Capricornus (Sea-Goat)

StarNameEnglishMvLat.Long.Notes
α CapAlgediSacrifice3.66.9302126.2992~Goat. LM 11 (Arab 20, Bab. 26)
β CapDabih 3.14.5888126.4880~Sacrifice.
ρ Cap  4.81.1985127.6058
ψ Cap  4.1-7.0286129.5994
ω Cap  4.1-8.9626130.4001
24 Cap  4.5-8.1040134.2847
θ Cap  4.1-0.5856136.2844
ζ Cap  3.7-6.9908139.3777
ι Cap  4.3-1.3667140.1227
γ CapNashira 3.7-2.5571144.2311~Fortunate. LM 12 (Bab. 27)
δ CapDeneb Algedi 2.9-2.6014145.9833~Goat's Tail. Bab. 28

Aquarius (Water Bearer)

StarNameEnglishMvLat.Long.Notes
ε AqrAl BaliStrap3.88.0808134.1635Arab 21
25 Aqr  5.115.3393150.3925
ι Aqr  4.3-2.0809151.1608
α AqrSadalmelik 3.010.6620155.7929~Lucky One of the King. LM 13
τ Aqr  4.0-5.6641161.0363
π Aqr  4.710.4734161.0385
δ AqrScheat or Skat 3.3-8.1910161.3140
ζ Aqr Jar3.88.8457161.3509
η Aqr  4.08.1472162.8437
λ Aqr Stream3.7-0.3863164.0164LM 14
ψ Aqr  4.2-4.0015168.7496
φ Aqr  4.2-1.0520169.5793
ω Aqr  4.5-11.6196172.6370

Pisces (Fishes)

StarNameEnglishMvLat.Long.Notes
β Psc  4.59.0532171.0263
γ Psc  3.77.2574173.8936
κ Psc  5.04.4327175.3442
θ Psc  4.39.0335177.6296
λ Psc  4.53.4179179.0286LM 15
ι Psc  4.17.1543180.0855
ω Psc  4.06.3633185.0241
δ Psc  4.42.1766196.5885LM 16
ε Psc  4.31.0939199.9662
ζ Psc  4.9-0.2134202.3185
ψ Psc  4.913.3690205.8787
ν Psc  4.4-4.6941207.9475
φ Psc  4.715.5035208.9000
η Psc  3.65.3778209.2569LM 17 (Bab. 1)
π Psc  5.61.8969209.3559
ρ Psc  5.49.3940209.5215
ο Psc  4.3-1.6200210.1840
τ Psc  4.520.7394210.7584
υ Psc  4.817.4657211.2291
α PscAlreschaKnot3.4-9.0608211.8195~Cord

Aries (Ram)

StarNameEnglishMvLat.Long.Notes
γ AriMesarthim 4.67.1622215.6258
β AriSheratan 2.68.4874216.4109~Sign. LM 18 (Bab. 2)
α AriHamal 2.09.9653220.1034~Ram. Arab 27
ν Ari  5.36.1685226.5776
σ Ari  5.5-1.2942227.3850
ρ Ari  5.61.1799229.3680
ε Ari  4.64.1746230.9391
δ AriBotein 4.41.8240233.2941~Belly. LM 19 (Arab 28, Bab. 3)
τ Ari  5.32.6093235.8369

Taurus (Bull)

StarNameEnglishMvLat.Long.Notes
ο Tau  3.6-9.3341233.6045
ξ Tau  3.7-8.7985234.3531
ν Tau  3.9-14.4518242.3601
η TauAlcyoneDove2.94.0509242.4334Chief of Seven Sisters. LM 20 (Arab 1, Bab. 4)
λ Tau  3.5-7.9598243.0753
μ Tau  4.3-12.1839246.0224
γ Tau  3.6-5.7323248.2466
δ Tau  3.8-3.9695249.3117
θ Tau  3.4-5.8384250.4027
ε Tau  3.5-2.5672250.9059
υ Tau  4.31.1056250.9419
90 Tau  4.3-9.5021252.1976
α TauAldebaranEye0.9-5.4674252.2303~Follower. Arab 2, Bab 5
τ Tau  4.30.7140254.5946LM 21
β TauElnath 1.75.3852265.0162Bab. 6
ζ Tau  3.0-2.1956267.2256LM 22 (Bab. 7)

Gemini (Twins)

StarNameEnglishMvLat.Long.Notes
η GemPropus 3.3-0.8883275.8773
μ Gem  2.9-0.8201277.7431Bab. 9
ν Gem  4.2-3.0565279.2434
γ GemAlhena 1.9-6.4726281.5459Arab 4, Bab. 10
ε Gem  3.02.0700282.3800LM 23
θ Gem  3.611.0300283.5646
ξ Gem  3.4-10.1043283.6503
ζ GemMekbuda 3.8-2.0389287.4314
τ Gem  4.47.7545287.8854
δ GemWasat 3.5-0.1785290.9603~Middle
λ Gem  3.6-5.6353291.2199
ι Gem  3.85.7582291.3982
α GemCastor 1.610.0958292.6816Apollo. Bab. 11.
υ Gem  4.15.2161293.7855
β GemPollux 1.16.6841295.6568Hercules. LM 24 (Arab 5, Bab. 12)
κ Gem  3.63.0783296.1069

Cancer (Crab)

StarNameEnglishMvLat.Long.Notes
μ Cnc  5.31.3516301.9194
β CncAl Tarf 3.5-10.2876306.6985~End
η Cnc  5.31.5712307.8487
θ Cnc  5.4-0.7684308.1697
ι Cnc  4.010.4266308.7873
ε CncPraesepeManger41.29309.78~Manger between the donkeys. M44: star cluster.
γ CncAsellus borealis 4.73.1903309.9796~Northern Donkey
δ CncAselllus australisDonkey3.90.0769311.1630~Southern Donkey. LM 25 (Arab 6, Bab. 13)
α CncAcubens 4.3-5.0804316.0829~Claw

Leo (Lion)

StarNameEnglishMvLat.Long.Notes
κ Leo  4.510.4260317.7372
λ LeoAlterfRoar4.37.8884320.3143~Glance. LM 26 (Arab 7)
ε LeoAlgenubi 3.09.7152323.1459Bab. 14
μ LeoRasalas 3.912.3488323.8713
ο Leo  3.5-3.7573326.6883
ν Leo  5.30.0513329.7788