For more than 40 years, a paperback entitled Name Your Baby sat on the shelves of the many bookcases I've possessed.  This was the book from which my mother chose the name of my younger sister.  In my father's careful handwriting, "Danica Jane" appears in pencil on the back cover.  

Leafing through the book, my pregnant mother hit upon "Danica" as merely a beautiful name.  Translated from Czech, it means "morning star." My grandmother pronounced the name, as well as mine, ostentatious and unsuited for our ungraceful, monosyllabic last names (and presumably unglamorous futures), but my mom ignored her advice.

Today there are at least 2 relatively well-known Danicas out there:  Danica Patrick, the NASCAR driver, and Danica McKellar, star of the 1990s TV show The Wonder Years.  But when we were growing up, no one had heard of it.  Unfortunately for my sister, it was too burdensome.  We moved often and invariably the mispronunciations would proliferate as well as the questions:  "How did you get such an unusual name?"  My shy sister hated the attention to such an extent that she rechristened herself "Jane" in her mid-30s.

Mapping the sky for the morning she was born, I discovered that my mother had unknowingly hit upon quite an appropriate name for her second child.  On that first dawn of August, as the full moon set in the west, the radiant 'Morning Star' Venus rose well before the Sun.  Moreover, her morning apparition was accompanied by both Mars and Jupiter.  Perhaps if my sister had known, she might have been prouder of the beautiful name that connected her to one of the brightest and most recognized luminaries of the night sky.


This view is east just before dawn.  The two bright objects just above the house are Jupiter and Venus, paired within the starfield Gemini, with Castor and Pollux showing close.  Majestic Orion stands just south; Taurus and Auriga light above.  This horizon, by the way, is called 'Classic with summer trees,' and is based on a farmhouse that a friend of Van owns in rural Wisconsin.

By the way, Danica Patrick's chart also shows Venus rising before dawn.  But not Danica McKellar's.  Maybe there's a name for 'Evening Star' in another language that would be more appropriate for her.