By Clare Green
If you’ve ever looked up in wonder at the night sky, or tried to pick out the constellations, you may be considering astronomy baby names. There are galaxies of possibilities, ranging from the names of moons, stars and planets, to choices inspired by famous astronomers and space exploration.
Whether you’re an astrophysicist or just love watching the skies, here are 15 of the most stellar astronomy-inspired names.
This is one of the most graceful and underused star names. From an Arabic phrase meaning “the flying eagle,” Altair appears in the constellation of Aquila (also meaning eagle) and forms part of the bright Summer Triangle, as does another beautifully-named star, Vega.
Andromeda is the name of both a constellation – floating next to her mythical mother Cassiopeia – and the nearest galaxy to our own. As with many other names from mythology, more parents have started to discover Andromeda recently, but it remains a lovely sweet-spot name: rare yet recognizable, and with good nickname potential. Galaxy itself is also on the rise as a word name.
From the same root as cosmos, aka the universe, Cosmo is an ancient name with a space-age vibe. It’s saintly (St Cosmo is the patron of doctors), a little aristocratic, but also cuddly. It’s a great uncommon alternative to more popular baby names ending in -o. We also love the feminine version Cosima.
Hayley is tied to the 1990s and Halle to the 2000s, but Halley – as in the English astronomer Edmund Halley – is more timeless and is much less popular. Halley‘s comet was last seen in the sky in 1986, which gave the name a big boost. It’s due back in 2061, but you don’t have to wait that long to use Halley.
Jocelyn Bell Burnell, besides having a melodic name, is a modern astrophysicist and one of the first people to discover pulsar stars. Many -lyn names are recent inventions, but Jocelyn is a sometimes-overlooked classic that has been given to boys and girls for centuries. It ranks #194 in the US.
The Juno space probe is, as we speak, in orbit above Jupiter exploring the planet closer than ever before. Jupiter‘s moons are named after the thunder-god’s lovers – including Io, Leda and Elara – so it’s only right that a spacecraft with his wife’s name is checking up on him. With a spunky sound, and still associated with the quirky film starring Ellen Page, Juno is a real name-lovers’ name. It’s below the Top 1000 nationally but #137 in the Nameberry charts.
J.K. Rowling kickstarted this name, but Luna has taken on a life of her own as a modern choice with a radiant meaning (moon) and a simplicity that works in lots of languages. At #23, it’s more popular now than it’s ever been before.
Along with gentler Venus, the red planet is often visible in the night sky. With parents searching ever wider for names from mythology, simple but dramatic Mars has suddenly become a viable option. It might remind you of Bruno Mars, or the chocolate bar named after its inventor, Forrest Mars. It’s also a creative way to nod to related names like Mark and Martin.
Mir – meaning “peace” – was a Russian space station that orbited the earth from 1986 to 2001. Mira is a girls’ name in many Slavic languages, and travels well to other countries too. Sitting just inside the Top 500, it makes a sweet alternative to super-popular Mila.
In astrophysics, a nova is when a new star suddenly seems to appear (nova means “new”) – and a supernova is a much more powerful explosion. Nova is one of the fastest-rising names of the last decade, thanks to its fresh, international sound and helped by Lake Bell and several “Teen Mom” stars using it for their daughters. It is currently #56 in the US charts.
Orion is one of the most recognizable constellations in the night sky, visible all over the world. The ancient Greeks named it after their mythical hunter, and modern parents have fallen in love with his name. With a similar sound to popular names like Ryan and Owen, and on-trend mythological and starry meanings, Orion has risen to #300 and looks like it will stay around for a while.
Many names from the ancient world are back in style, but Ptolemy (with a silent P) is lamentably underused, despite having the same jaunty rhythm as names like Barnaby and Rafferty. Claudius Ptolemy lived in Egypt in the first century, and wrote one of the earliest surviving texts on astronomy. Actress Gretchen Mol was daring enough to use it for her son.
At the more recent end of history, the American astronomer Carl Sagan helped to popularize science through his writing and television work. His last name, which rhymes with Reagan, has been used for a few hundred boys and girls over the last twenty years. It strikes a neat balance of being an unusual honor name with a stylish sound.
The Danish nobleman Tycho Brahe is an important figure in astronomy. Born in 1546, he made many accurate observations of the stars and planets, including a supernova. Oh, and he also wore a prosthetic nose and kept a tame moose. Tycho is a latinized version of his birth name, Tyge. Only given to 15 boys last year, it boasts a snappy sound and some interesting stories behind it.
Clare Green writes Nameberry’s weekly round-up of the latest baby name news, including celebrity announcements, unusual naming stories, and new statistics from around the world. Clare, who has been writing for Nameberry since 2015, lives in England, where she has worked in libraries and studies linguistics. You can follow her personally on Instagram and Twitter.