Thursday, May 3, 2012

Double star in the Big Dipper handle with labels

It's supposed to rain for the next 5 days here in Bowling Green, but I feel the need to blog! Blogging is a great way to learn, because to make sure I don't just talk out my ass I have to actually look things up to write about them. I bet to real amateur astronomers this is just silly, but I'm a noob and having a blast teaching myself what I can!

mizar and alcor double star in the Big Dipper handle with labels

Tonight I decided to pull up a 15 sec exposure of the northern sky from Sunday night when I made my star circle image. I remember Dale Smith from the BGSU Planetarium asking if we could spot the double star in the handle of the Big Dipper (apparently a Native American test of good eyesight). I was able to just barely make out the double star with the naked eye, but I'm pleased that they are visible even with this quick snapshot. 

For some reason, the stars near the edge seem to smear more during a 15 sec exposure than the ones in the middle. 

The stars are called Mizar (the larger one) and Alcor (the smaller one). Mizar is actually a double star itself, making this "star" in the handle of the Big Dipper an interesting combination of three. For much better images and explanations, head over to But wait! The images by Jerry Lodriguss show that this small point in the sky actually has 4 stars with the addition of the very faint Sidus Ludoviciana. It's as if somebody bejeweled rhinestones to the handle of our celestial saucepan! 

Finally, you'll notice that Polaris is easy to locate by drawing an imaginary line through Merak and Dubhe at the large end of the dipper bowl. They don't exactly line up, but in the open sky it's a very hard to miss the obvious Polaris (48th brightest star in the sky). 

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