There are many stars that astronomers have identified over the years. Some of these stars are more famous than others. Here are a handful of the most well known stars and some basic information about them.
Polaris, known by many names, is one of the most famous stars in the sky. Polaris is also known as Alpha Ursae Minoris and is part of the constellation Ursa Minor, which is the Little Bear. Polaris is always in the sky; it does not disappear depending on the season, which is one reason why it has been used for navigation for centuries. One of the brightest stars in the sky, Polaris is sometimes hard to see because it is 430 light years away. Polaris is also known as the North Star, the Northern Star, and the Lodestar, along with other titles. Some scientists think that throughout the centuries, Polaris has actually gotten brighter.
The largest known star is VY Canis Majoris. It is a red hypergiant star that is located about 4,900 light years from us. Its volume is about a billion times that of our Sun, and it is about nine astronomical units (AU) wide. VY Canis Majoris is part of the constellation Canis Major.
Another famous star is also in the Canis Major constellation. It is known as Sirius or Alpha Canis Majoris and is the brightest star in the sky. Stars are bright because they are close or because of their luminosities or a combination of both of them. Sirius is bright due to both its high luminosity and its closeness to Earth. It is only 8.6 light years from our planet. It is not the most luminous star, but its closeness to Earth does make it the brightest.
The smallest star that we know of is OGLE-TR-122b, which is a red dwarf star. This small star is only about 20% bigger than Jupiter although it is much more massive. Scientists are still looking for smaller stars.
The closest star to our own Solar System is Proxima Centauri. It is located only about 4.2 light years from the Sun. A very faint star, it is difficult to see, even if you have a good telescope. The star, which was discovered in 1915, is located in the constellation of Centaurus. These are just a handful of the many stars discovered by scientists so far and more are being discovered all the time.
For more information, check out Polaris and the 10 brightest stars.
Astronomy Cast has an episode on famous stars.