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Posts Tagged ‘Albireo’

09/16/2022 – Ephemeris – Alberio: a double star that showcases star colors

September 16, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Friday, September 16th. Today the Sun will be up for 12 hours and 28 minutes, setting at 7:51, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:24. The Moon, 1 day before last quarter, will rise at 11:03 this evening.

Alberio is the name given to the star that is in the head of the constellation of Cygnus the swan, which is high in the east these evenings. It is also at the foot of the asterism or informal constellation of the Northern Cross. To the naked eye Albireo looks like a single star, however even in small telescopes its true nature is revealed. It’s a double star whose individual star colors are strikingly different Its brightest star is yellow, and the dimmer star is blue. While star colors are subtle, these two, due to their apparent closeness, make an obvious color contrast. Unlike what your interior decorator says: In stars, blue is hot, yellow, orange and red are cool. The two stars are too far apart to be considered a binary star system, but appear to move together in space. It is what is called an optical double, though they’re both around 430 light years away.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EDT, UT – 4 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Albireo finder animation

Animated Albireo finder chart. Albireo is located in the head of Cygnus the swan, or at the base of the Northern Cross. Tagged stars are, beside Albireo, the stars of the Summer Triangle: Deneb, Vega and Altair plus the star at the junction of the upright and crosspiece of the cross, Sadr. Created using Stellarium.

Albireo photographed in a telescope

Albireo, captured at high magnification by the staff of the Smithsonian Institution. Informally, at star parties, I call it the U of M Star because it displays the University of Michigan’s Maize and Blue colors.

A note about star colors

The color of a star is dependent on its surface temperature. The term surface is a misnomer, because stars do not have a surface, at least not a solid one, being gaseous in nature. The only exception I can think is a neutron star, which is packed with neutrons. We consider the Sun’s photosphere synonymous with “surface”. The photosphere of the Sun is where the energy transport from the core changes from convection to radiation. The color of the Sun is a measure of the temperature of the photosphere. The color sequence from the coolest to the hottest is: red, orange, yellow, white and blue. The light emitted by a star is not a pure color, but a distribution of colors, whose peak shifts along that range. There is much more to tell, but that’s beyond the scope of this post.

07/26/2021 – Ephemeris – Albireo, a colorful double star in Cygnus the swan

July 26, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Monday, July 26th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 52 minutes, setting at 9:15, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:23. The Moon, 3 days past full, will rise at 11:15 this evening.

Alberio is the name given to the star that is in the beak of the constellation of Cygnus the swan, which is high in the east these evenings. It is also at the foot of the asterism or informal constellation of the Northern Cross. To the naked eye Alberio looks like a single star, however even in small telescopes* its true nature is revealed. It is a double star whose individual star colors are strikingly different Its brightest star is yellow, and the dimmer star is blue. While star colors are subtle, these two, due to their apparent closeness, make an obvious color contrast. Unlike what your interior decorator says: In stars blue is hot, yellow, orange and red are cool. Also, it turns out that Alberio’s component stars don’t orbit each other. It is what is called an optical double. The blue star is a bit farther away than the yellow one, though they’re both around 430 light years away.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EDT, UT – 4 hr). They may be different for your location.

* It will take at least about 20 power magnification to split. Binoculars won’t do it.

Addendum

Albireo finder animation

Animated Albireo finder chart. Albireo is located in the head of Cygnus the swan, or at the base of the Northern Cross. Tagged stars are, beside Albireo, the stars of the Summer Triangle: Deneb, Vega and Altair plus the star at the junction of the upright and crosspiece of the cross, Sadr. Created using Stellarium.

Albireo photographed in a telescope

Albireo, captured at high magnification by the staff of the Smithsonian Institution.

07/08/2021 – Ephemeris – How to find the constellation of Cygnus the swan

July 8, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, July 8th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 23 minutes, setting at 9:29, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:06. The Moon, 1 day before new, will rise at 5:23 tomorrow morning.

Halfway up the sky in the east at 11 pm is the constellation of Cygnus the swan, flying south through the Milky Way. It is also called the Northern Cross. At the left, the tail of the swan or the head of the cross is the bright star Deneb, one of the stars of the Summer Triangle. The next star to the right is Sadr the intersection of the body and the wings of the swan seen in flight, or the intersection of the two pieces of the cross. There are two or three stars farther to the right that delineate the swan’s long neck or upright of the cross, that ends with the star Alberio, a beautiful double star in telescopes, in the beak of the swan or foot of the cross. The crosspiece of the cross extends to the stars on either side of the intersection star Sadr, while the swan’s wings extend for a couple more stars each side.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EDT, UT-4). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Cygnus finder animation

Animated Cygnus finder chart. Included also are, beside Deneb, the other stars of the Summer Triangle: Vega and Altair and their constellations Lyra the harp and Aquila. See if you can find them. Click on the image to enlarge it. Created using Stellarium.