Harry Potter connections to astronomy

Harry Potter Books – Astronomical Links

 JK Rowling’s marvelous series of Harry Potter books have a great array of weird and wonderful names used in them. Quite a few can be found in the night sky and here are some that I have found, plus a note on some of the planets referred to during the course of the books. You may find a few more. If you have a planisphere you can find all the constellations mentioned on that. The internet is another good place to find them.

Alphard Black – Sirius’ uncle who bequeathed him his fortune has the name of an orange giant star. Alphard means ‘the Solitary One’ in Arabic. It is the brightest star in the constellation of Hydra.

Andromeda Tonks
- A mythological princess gives her name to the constellation of Andromeda. It contains the Andromeda Galaxy which is the nearest galaxy to our own Milky Way.


Augusta Longbottom - Neville’s grandmother has the name of the asteroid 254 Augusta.

Bellatrix Lestrange - Bellatrix is Latin, meaning ‘The Female Warrior’. Therefore her star is sometimes known as "The Amazon Star". Bellatrix is the third brightest star in the constellation of Orion and the twenty-seventh brightest star in the nighttime sky.

Centaurs - The centaurs are an unstable orbital class of minor planets named after the mythological race of centaurs. The name was chosen because they behave as half asteroid and half comet. Centaurs have transient orbits that cross or have crossed the orbits of one or more of the giant planets, and have dynamical lifetimes of a few million years. Centaur is also a constellation.

This shows the positions of known outer solar system objects. The centaurs are those objects (in orange) that lie inwards of the Kuiper belt (in green)

Cygnus Black - Father of Narcissa, Andromeda and Bellatrix, Cygnus, the swan, is a constellation.

Draco Malfoy - Draco is among the earliest of the constellations to have been defined; in one of the oldest known astronomical records. In Latin Draco means dragon, but the ancient Greeks depicted it as a serpent. Draco is one of the constellations that easily resembles its name and looks like a snake. Is this a link to Slytherin?

Jupiter’s moons - the subject of a fifth year essay; Jupiter has 63 moons at present. The most massive of them, the four Galilean moons, were discovered in 1610 by Galileo and were the first objects found to orbit a body that was neither Earth nor the Sun. These four moons -Gannymeade, Callisto, Europa and Io can be easily seen when viewing Jupiter with binoculars and are often all visible at the same time.
From the end of the 19th century, dozens of much smaller Jovian moons have been discovered and have received the names of lovers, conquests, or daughters of the Roman godJupiter, or his Greek equivalent, Zeus.

Ganymede the largest is an icy, outer moon that is scarred with impact craters and many parallel faults.

Callisto is the second-largest moon; it is icy, dark-coloured, and has a low-density. It is an outer moon of Jupiter that is scarred with impact craters. It has a diameter of about 3,000 miles (4800 km), roughly the size of the planet Mercury. Callisto has the largest-known impact crater in the Solar System, Valhalla, which has a bright patch 600 km across.

Io is a large, rocky, volcanically active moon. Its volcanoes spew out molten sulphur, making Io a very colourful moon. It is the innermost of Jupiter's four large moons and the third largest.

Jupiter and its Moon Io; taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. The black spot is Io's shadow. Europa is a dense, icy moon. It is the smoothest object in our Solar System. Its surface is covered with long, crisscrossing tracks (but few craters) on water ice. Frozen sulphuric acid has been found on its surface.

Luna Lovegood
- Luna is taken from the word lunar, meaning related to the moon. Luna1 was the first spacecraft to leave the earth’s gravity, launched in 1959 towards the moon. Luna 2 became the first space probe to hit the moon when it crash landed on the surface also in 1959. Then the following month Luna 3 took the first photographs of the far side of the moon.

Merope Gaunt - A star in the constellation Taurus, Merope is a member of the Pleiades star cluster. It is a variable star so its brightness ‘twinkles’. Surrounding the star is the Merope Nebula.

Mars is bright tonight” - the planet Mars has an elliptical orbit around the sun and its apparent size and brightness varies greatly according to its relative position to the earth. When Mars looks brighter the planet is nearer to us. When it is in the night-time sky, Mars is easily visible with the unaided eye. Mars is a difficult but rewarding target for an amateur telescope though only for the three or four months each Martian year when it is closest to earth

Remus Lupin - Lupus (Lupi) is the wolf constellation. Remus is a moon of Asteroid 87 Sylvia which lies in the main asteroid belt. Remus and his twin Romulus were raised by wolves in Roman mythology.

Regulus Arcturus Black - Regulus and Arcturus are both stars.

Regulus is the brightest star in the constellation of Leo, the lion.

Arcturus is the brightest star in the constellation of Bootes, the herdsman.

Sirius Black - Sirius is found in the constellation of Canis Major, which means the Great Dog. Sirius is 26 times more luminous than our sun and is one of the nearest stars to the sun. It is the brightest star in the sky. Canis Major was Orion’s senior dog and Sirius is known as the Dog Star.

Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy - Scorpius is a constellation and the first name given to Draco’s son. Scorpius X-1 is the first x-ray source to be found outside the solar system. Hyperion is one of the planet Saturn’s moons.