As a reader of Cosmic Pursuits, you no doubt believe that all stars are wonderful. But one star, it turns out, is more wonderful than most. The star Mira, or Omicron Ceti, in the constellation Cetus, has been known since ancient times, but its nature began to emerge in the 16th century when a German pastor and amateur astronomer discovered the star’s brightness changed periodically, by a huge amount, every eleven months. And it was but the first discovered of many such stars. [Read more…] about The Wonderful StarShare This:
Fifty years ago this December, at the end of a ghastly year of assassinations, riots, war, and political unrest, three astronauts became the first humans to leave the gravitational embrace of Earth, orbit another world, and return safely back home. Apollo 8 was a mission of astonishing audacity, put together in great haste to counter a possible Soviet lunar mission which U.S. intelligence sources believed was imminent. And it served as a major step to fulfill President Kennedy’s promise to land a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth by the end of the 1960s [Read more…] about The Greatest Astrophoto in History (So Far)Share This:
Algol, the second brightest star in the northern constellation Perseus, is the finest example of an eclipsing variable star in the entire sky. In this compact stellar system, two stars revolve around their common center of mass in a rhythmic and precise gravitational dance, and the resulting eclipse causes the brightness of the star to vary like clockwork to a degree that’s easily perceptible to the human eye. And you can watch it from your backyard. No telescope required [Read more…] about Algol, the “Demon Star”Share This:
After a cloudy night, the sky cleared as dawn arrived on a late summer morning as seen from Bruneau Dunes State Park in southern Idaho on September 8, 2018. Here you see a very slender waning crescent Moon to the upper left of the star Regulus. Mercury is at the lower middle of this image, just above the clouds. Just minutes earlier, the constellation Orion tried to peak through the early-morning clouds (see below) [Read more…] about Dawn Sky – Crescent Moon, Mercury, Regulus, and OrionShare This:
When it comes to observing the stars and other sights beyond our solar system, there’s always something new to see. But once you see it, chances are it’s not going to chance much in the coming years. That’s because things move slowly in the cosmos, at least compared to a human lifetime.
There are, however, a few exceptions. One of the most important for astronomers is the nearby binary star called 70 Ophiuchi, a little gem in the asterism known as Taurus Poniatowski in the constellation Ophiuchus. It’s a beautiful star for casual stargazers armed with a small telescope. Serious stargazers can watch over the course of a year or two to detect the motion of the two components as they slowly revolve around each other during their 88-year period. It’s one of the few double stars that make a complete revolution within the course of a human lifetime [Read more…] about A Speedy Little Double StarShare This: