List of brightest stars

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Bright stars often shine so prominently because of their proximity to us and/or that they have high luminosities. Below are listed ninety-one (91) of the brightest individual stars in order of their apparent magnitudes in the visible spectrum as seen from Earth. Stellar brightness in this selected table is limited to above +2.50 magnitude, mostly as the available number of observable stars increases almost exponentially as the magnitude increases. [1]. To the naked-eye on a clear dark night, the total number of stars visible is about 6,500. Stars visible through optical aid increase this even further. Telescopically, the entire night's sky has been mapped, photographed and catalogued almost completely down to 11th magnitude, and recent star surveys are continuing to catalogue much fainter stars.

For comparison, the non-stellar objects in our Solar System that have maximum visible magnitudes less than or equal to +2.50 are the Moon (−12.92), Venus (−4.67), Jupiter (−2.94), Mars (−2.91), Mercury (−2.45), and Saturn (−0.49).

An exact order of the visual brightness of stars is not perfectly defined for the following reasons:

  • The brightness of all stars were traditionally based on the apparent visual magnitude as perceived by the human eye, from the brightest stars of 1st magnitude to the faintest at 6th magnitude.
  • From the invention of the telescope and the discovery of double or binary stars, meant star brightness could be individual or total (or combined) magnitudes
  • More and more accurate instrumental photometry differentiated stellar magnitudes, often changing the order of lists of brighter stars
  • Stellar magnitude is sometimes listed by the apparent brightness of stars as seen to the naked-eye as if they were were single stars. I.e. Norton's Star Atlas 18th Edition pg.136. [1]
  • Other stellar magnitude lists (like this one) report individual stars differentiating those in binary stars or double star systems. Often, the differences apply to the ten or hundred brightest stars. For example, the total or combined magnitude of; −0.27 for Alpha Centauri as 3rd, +0.08 for Capella as 6th, and +0.77 for Acrux as 13th.
  • A third kind includes the Sun as first in the magnitude listings, making Sirius as 2nd, Canopus as 3rd, etc. Some, like this list, places the Sun at zero, as it is not a nighttime star.
  • There are sometimes small statistical variations in measured magnitudes, however, for most the brightest stars, accurate photometry means brightness stay unchanged. These particular stars are some times called standard stars, which appear in the Catalogues of Fundamental Stars like the FK4, FK5 or FK6.
  • Some stars, like Betelgeuse and Antares, are variable stars, changing their magnitude over days, months or years (These, in the Table, are indicated with var).

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