SIMBAD: Query from identifiers

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Query from identifiers

  1. Object identifiers: how to type them
  2. To search all objects around one object
  3. What you get from an object

Query by identifiers can be done by

Differents options are available through a menu:

The second part of the form allows to query a list of identifiers stored in a file. The file can contain the following lines:
an identifier  Only one identifier should be written on each line
#comment   A comment line beginning with a sharp char ('#') will not
                 be seen
:comment   A comment line beginning with a colon char (':') will be 
                 displayed in the result file at its place.
empty lines      are allowed and are not processed in any way
Query results can be displayed as a list (list display), or each object can be completely displayed (full display).
If the Query around this object checkbox is activated, each identifier query is turned into a coordinate query, taking the identifier position as the center and using the given radius. In this case, only a list display is provided for each identifier in the file, whatever the position of the list display/full display radio button is.
The second form on this page allows to submit a local file containing a list of identifiers. The result can be obtained on the web page, but if it may be large, it is recommended to get it in ASCII format in a file (see the Output Options page for this).

1  Object identifiers: how to type them

The syntax of an identifier is made of two parts: It is a safe practice to have the catalogue name followed by a space. It can be avoided if the first identifier field begins with a sign, like in a BD number (e.g. BD+08 1432. It can generally be avoided for most identifiers, the parsing of identifiers being quite flexible. Catalogue names are case insensitive. Examples:
HD 187642     or     HD187642
M 31     or     m31
BD+8 4236     or     BD +8 4236     or     BD +08 4236
Altair, α Aquilae, and RR Lyrae are listed as:
    NAME ALTAIR,     * ALF AQL   and     V* RR LYR
where NAME, *, and V* are the catalogue names.
Many catalog acronyms, defining lists in articles, were designed from the first letters of the three first authors of the paper followed by the publication year. These acronyms are written between brackets (i.e. [VV2003c] for Veron-Cetty+Veron, 2003). Such identifiers can be written without the brackets. They will be automatically added by the software.
Several common usages in designations – which can be sometimes far from the right syntax – are processed by the sesame module. It offers an efficient management of the possible variations in the naming of astronomical objects in SIMBAD and the info database of nomenclature of celestial objects helps to find any allowed designation (see Egret, 1992 and 1993).


The nomenclature does matter: it is the keystone of the SIMBAD and NED databases. The primary role of Nomenclature is to ensure that acronyms permit the identification of astronomical objects in an unambiguous way: a given name must correspond to a unique object.
In the dictionary of Nomenclature you can check what already exists, more than 15,000 acronyms. If you are going to publish a new survey or new observations that require a new acronym, please check the IAU Recommendations, and submit it to the IAU Working Group on Nomenclature & Designations prior to publication.
Dictionary of Nomenclature (
IAU Recommendations for Nomenclature (
Submission of a new acronym (
IAU Functional Working Group on Designations & Nomenclature (

Specific catalogues

Object names such as Vega and Altair, but also Barnard's star or Crab Nebula, are stored in the database in a specific catalog called NAME, while star names in constellations, such as alpha Lyrae, are stored as catalogue *, and variable stars (R Aquarii) in the catalogue VAR.
You generally can simply type the name (Vega, Altair, or alf Lyrae): the identifier preprocessing module (sesame) will make the internal conversion.
In case of problem, please send a mail at ,   the special hotline account managed by the CDS team.

Naming astronomical objects within SIMBAD: a few hints

Wildcard query

You can query identifiers using wildcards for defining a generic pattern. Wildcard definitions allow to define string patterns that are checked against actual strings. Wildcard elements are :
?      represents one character, and exactly one
*      represents any string, even an empty one
[abc]  represents exatly one chararcter among the given list. 
                 Here: a, b or c
[A-Z]  represents one character in the defined range. Here: A to Z
[^at-z]  represents one char not in the given list. Here: any char
                   except 'a' and 't' to 'z'.
An arbitrary string containing at least one char can be represented by ?*. Examples:
hd *1  retrieve all objects in the HD catalog ending with 1
hd *[abc]  retrieve all objects in the HD catalog ending with a,b or c
            (extrasolar planets).
hd 123?  retrieve the hd numbers from hd 1230 to hd 1239
Such queries can be quite long (a few minutes), mainly because the DBMS doesn't always make use of indices when querying through patterns. It can be useful when doing such queries which return list of objects driven by an acronym query to impose a particular catalog in the display: on the Output Options , select on the identifier line, from catalog list => and write one (or more) catalog names in the next field.

2  To search all objects around one object

It may be useful to search all objects, in the database, around a given object. This is done by typing an identifier and selecting around this object. The result is the list of objects, including the queried one, located within the given radius and sorted by increasing distance to the original object.
From the result of an object, the same form to query around is available on the top right.

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