How do you pronounce “Vega” and “Canis Major”?

How do you pronounce “Vega”? “Canis Major”?

Vega and surroundings

Vega shines bright in this image of the Lyra constellation by Akira Fujii.

In 1941 the American Astronomical Society formed a committee of Samuel G. Barton, George A. Davis Jr., and Daniel J. McHugh to consult with astronomers, educators, Arabic scholars, and planetarium lecturers and come up with a list of preferred pronunciations for common star names and constellations. Their final report, adopted by the AAS, appeared in Sky & Telescope for June 1943, page 12.

“In the absence of a definite reason to the contrary,the committee has sought to give to the names pronunciations which are as natural as possible to English-speaking persons,” they wrote. They decided that Vega should be pronounced VEE-guh,and Canis Major as KAY-niss MAY-jer.

An informal survey around our present-day office reveals a mixed verdict, however. Of 13 Sky & Telescope staff members polled, seven prefer VAY-guh, and five say KAN-iss (where the stressed syllable rhymes with “pan ”).

See our guide to constellation names and pronunciation for more information.

— Tony Flanders