Return of the Herdsman   Leave a comment

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Herding the heavens is a job requiring skill, dedication and longevity.  There is such a person, if you will, who’s been doing it as close to forever as imaginable.

Allow me to introduce Boötes, otherwise known as The Herdsman.  Boötes commands his starry field every spring and summer, rising in the east at sunset in April and traveling across the skies all summer long.  He sits on a dark perch, staring at his charges while smoking a pipe.  In his lap rests Arcturus (“guardian of the bear” in ancient Greek).  He pays particular attention to the Great Bear (Ursa Major) and the Little Bear (Ursa Minor, or Little Dipper), keeping a watchful eye on both.

Boötes has a lot going for him, with so much history and celestial happenings, he deserves his given name.  Ptolomy counted him among the original 48 constellations, making him one of the oldest recorded constellations on record.  Homer mentions him in The Odyssey.  it contains the fourth brightest star in the sky, Arcturus, with a magnitude of .  To open the 1934 Chicago World’s Fair, that particular star’s light shone on a photoelectric cell.  Arcturus also changes its place in the heavens more rapidly than any other of the bright stars.  1600 years ago, it was about one full moon’s width farther northeast in the sky.

Izar (also known as Pulcherrima), the star located at Boötes’ neck, is not one star but three.  The largest is a yellow 2.5 magnitude star, the secondary star is a 4.6 magnitude blue star, and the tertiary is a magnitude 12.0 star (not visible to the naked eye).  Izar is easily visible and with a telescope, all three stars can be seen moving around each other.

In addition to Izar, there are also 8 other multiple stars, including XI Bootis, a quadruple star consisting of a primary yellow star of magnetite 4.7 and a secondary orange star of magnitude 6.8, and two others

And if that weren’t enough, there are at least 6 stars that host planetary systems, all containing Jupiter-like planets.  Add to that mix one globular cluster and other star clusters, a gaggle of galaxies, as well as a huge void empty of galaxies.

Just to show you that he’s not finished with you yet, Boötes hosts several meteor showers throughout the year, beginning with the Quadrantid meteor shower that occurs around January 3-4.  The June Bootids aren’t quite as remarkable, but one never knows what might surprises might come of it.  Throughout the year there are also other minor meteor events too, but nothing to match these.

So: break out your telescope, make friends with Herdsman, and explore the universe in one easy, convenient location.

 

Posted April 21, 2014 by seleneymoon in Stars and Constellations

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