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The inconspicuous little constellation Delphinus has a the shape of a diamond with a short tail. Although unlike many constellations it at least vaguely resembles its namesake - some people think it is  more like a kite than a dolphin. Once seen in the sky, there is little reason to keep staring, especially as the riches of the Milky Way are nearby.

But the two brightest stars, alpha and beta Delphinus have an interesting history, being named Svalocin and Rotanev. To me the names suggest a hero of the Russian Revolution, but they were named far earlier, and they have a much more interesting story.

Admiral Smyth is the great forgotten British astronomer whose contribution not just to astronomy itself but also widening its understanding was immense. his obituary noted:

As President of the Astronomical Club, he was always genial & courteous, ever keeping things in happy order, and by his ready wit and flow of humour compelling the maintenance of good fellowship. He used to fill his pockets with new half-pennies to distribute to any children he met in his daily walks. Whatever he did, he did it with his might

It seems that, like the elder Herschel he was a 'nice chap'! But Svalocin and Rotanev tested his patience. He thought they were ridiculous names with no foundation saying they were:

cacaphonous and barbaric ... no prying into the black-letter versions of the Almagest, El Battani, Ibn Yunis, and other authorities enables one to form any rational conjecture as to the mis-reading, mis-writing or mis-application in which sostrange a metamorphosis could have originated.

He said that Rotanev "putteth derivation and etymology at defiance" . He appears to have thought they were made up nonsense, but couldn't prove it.

An even less famous British Astronomer was the Rev. Thomas W. Webb, though he was a populariser of amateur astronomy his book Celestial Objects of 1859 was very successful (and well worth reading). In Celestial Objects he wrote of Smyth's confusion with thinly disguised smugness:  "Where so eminent and accomplished a scholar and antiquarian has not succeeded, it would seem presumptious to offer a solution". But, unable to restrain his delight at having cracked the puzzle of Svalocin and Rotanev, that's exactly what de did.

He simply reversed the names to get the words Nicolavs Venator, which he easily recognised as a latinised version of the name Niccolo Cacciatore (venator in Latin and cacciatore in Italian both mean 'Hunter' - I'm sure you recognised versions of 'Nicholas'). He also knew that Italian astronomer Niccolo Cacciatore was an assistant at the Palermo Observatory at the time the catalogue in which these stars were first named was being prepared.

There aren't many mortal beings who get to have a star that can be seen by the naked eye named after them. Rotanev Svalocin AKA Niccolo Cacciatore, you are officially a dude - respect!