What is the Stars? The Stars of Harry Potter

In the pause between the last two instalments of the Harry Potter film franchise, let’s look to the skies for some of the characters of this popular series. Most of the connections are to Harry’s godfather – Sirius Black.

The place to start is with the constellation Orion the hunter– visible just at sunset in the west. Orion is the name of Sirius Black’s father. The stars of Orion’s belt point down to Sirius – the star that is – not the character who was imprisoned in Azkaban. The star lies in the constellation of Canis Major, one of Orion’s hunting dogs – and it is known as the Dog Star – it is probably not a coincidence that Sirius can turn himself into a dog.

Look as well for the bright star Bellatrix – as night falls, it’s directly above Orion’s Belt and to the right of the hunter’s other shoulder, bright orange Betelgeuse. Bellatrix in Potter land is the evil aunty of Draco Malfoy – and Sirius Black’s cousin and killer. Bellatrix, the star itself, is powerful and hot – one of the hottest in the immediate neighbourhood of the sun. It is more massive than the Sun and is probably nearing the end of its life. Not large enough to explode in a supernova, it will likely just puff up and shed it’s outer layers, leaving behind the dying ember of a white dwarf – and Orion will be missing his right shoulder. But I think it’s rather unfair that the celestial versions of Sirius and his murderer lie so near to each other in the sky.

The rest of the Black family feature a host of astronomical names: Sirius Black’s brother Regulus can be seen to the east of Orion – as the brightest star in the constellation of Leo. Alphard is the brightest star in Hydra – its name means the Solitary One in Arabic (because there are no other bright stars near it). Sirius Black’s Uncle Alphard was alone in supporting him, and had his name consequently blasted off the family tapestry.

Low in the northeast – rising just at sunset is a cross-shaped constellation depicting a soaring swan, Cygnus. Uncle Cygnus was the father of Bellatrix, Andromeda, and Narcissa.  Andromeda Black – disowned by her family for marrying a muggle and the mother of Tonks of the funky hair – is better known as the constellation that hosts the nearest large galaxy to us – the famous Andromeda Galaxy. And Sirius Black’s grandparents include a Pollux (the brightest star in Gemini) and Arcturus – the red giant star visible in the east at sunset.

In contrast to all these stellar names of the pure bred magical community – the most well known muggle of the books – Hermione Granger – can be found as an asteroid -Hermione121. This large asteroid was discovered in 1872, and it has small moon discovered in 2002 – referred to as S/2002 (121), with no official name yet– although I think Rowling would make a great name.

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