J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books and the Harry Potter movies are immensely popular in part because of the very rich detail in the stories. Among these details is the large cast of both major and minor characters and their names – many of which are taken from astronomy.
Harry’s Classmates at Hogwarts
Draco Malfoy was one of the first classmates Harry met on his initial trip to Hogwarts. Draco is also the name of a constellation that mythologically represents a dragon. In the sky, this dragon winds serpent-like around the Big and Little Dippers, so it is a suitable name for a Slytherin. After graduation, Draco’s son is named Scorpius Malfoy. Scorpius is a prominent summer constellation representing a scorpion.
Luna Lovegood is one of Harry’s friends at Hogwarts who might be described as unusual. Luna refers to the Moon, which plays on the connection people make between the Moon and lunacy. Another character named Moon also gets a brief mention as a Hogwarts student.
The Black Family
The Black family tree has a penchant for astronomical names that are taken from both star names and constellation names.
Sirius Black, Harry’s godfather, is named for the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius. Also called the dog star, Sirius is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major, one of Orion’s hunting dogs. Sirius Black can take the form of a black dog.
Regulus Arcturus Black bears the names of two stars. Regulus is the brightest star in the constellation Leo, the lion. The red giant star, Arcturus, is the brightest star in the constellation Bootes. Regulus Black and Arcturus Black are two additional members of the Black family.
Bellatrix Black Lestrange takes her first name from one of the shoulder stars in the constellation Orion. The name Bellatrix means female warrior. She was one of Voldemort’s warriors.
Andromeda Black Tonks shares a name with the constellation Andromeda. In Greek mythology Andromeda was the daughter of Cassiopeia. Cassiopeia Black is also a character in the Harry Potter series, but is not Andromeda’s mother.
Other astronomically named members of the Black family include: Pollux Black, Cygnus Black, Orion Black, and Alphard Black. Astronomically Pollux is one of the twin stars in the constellation Gemini, the twins. Cygnus is a summer constellation that mythologically represents a swan and is also known as the northern cross. Orion is a prominent winter constellation representing a mythological hunter. Alphard is the brightest star in the constellation Hydra. The meaning of Alphard, the solitary one, is fitting because Alphard Black was disowned by his family.
Other Harry Potter Series Characters
Ptolemy gets a brief mention as a famous wizard. In astronomical history, Ptolemy was the Greek scholar who devised the Ptolemaic system for the Earth centered cosmos.
Aurora Sinistra was the astronomy teacher at Hogwarts. Her name is not really astronomically themed, but the northern lights are the Aurora Borealis. They are in the sky, but the aurora are more of an atmospheric than an astronomical phenomena.
Merope Gaunt was Tom Riddle’s mother. Riddle was of course also known as Lord Voldemort or “he who shall not be named.” Astronomically speaking, Merope is one of the stars in the open cluster known as the seven sisters of the Pleiades.
Star and constellation names are just one of the sources of names that J.K. Rowling used for the characters in her Harry Potter book series.
Rowling, J.K., The Harry Potter series
Allen, R.H., Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning, Dover, 1963.
This article originally appeared on Suite101.com