Perseus and the Seven Sisters | Sept 30 – Oct 6th | Star Gazers


PERSEUS AND THE SEVEN SISTERS DEAN:
HEY THERE STAR GAZERS. I’M DEAN REGAS, ASTRONOMER FROM THE CINCINNATI
OBSERVATORY. JAMES:
AND I’M JAMES ALBURY, DIRECTOR OF THE KIKA SILVA PLA PLANETARIUM IN GAINESVILLE FLORIDA. AUTUMN IS FINALLY HERE AND THERE’S A VERY
SPECIAL CONSTELLATION THATS GOING TO BE MAKING ITS REAPPEARANCE IN THE EVENING SKY. DEAN:
THAT’S RIGHT, JAMES! PERSEUS THE HERO
IS BACK, AND NOT ONLY IS HE
ASSOCIATED WITH A GREAT STORY IN THE SKY, BUT HE ALSO HAS SOME INTERESTING CELESTIAL
COMPANY. JAMES:
WHAT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT? LET’S SHOW YOU! DEAN:
OK, WE’VE GOT OUR SKIES SET UP FOR THIS WEEK AT 11 P.M. FACING NORTHEAST. IF YOU LOOK MORE TO THE EAST, YOU’LL SEE WHAT
LOOKS LIKE A TINY LITTLE DIPPER-SHAPED CLUSTER OF STARS,
THE BEAUTIFUL SEVEN SISTERS. NOW, MOST PEOPLE CAN SEE ONLY 6 STARS HERE
WITH THE NAKED EYE, BUT IF YOU HAVE REALLY GOOD EYESIGHT (OR ARE WEARING THICK GLASSES
LIKE FOUR-EYES OVER THERE) YOU MAY SEE SEVEN. JAMES:
AND WITH A PAIR OF BINOCULARS YOU CAN SEE SEVERAL DOZEN. IN REALITY HOWEVER, THERE ARE OVER 250 STARS
HERE, ALL MUCH LARGER THAN OUR OWN SUN, AND BURNING MUCH, MUCH HOTTER. COSMICALLY SPEAKING, THEY’RE NOT VERY DISTANT,
ONLY 400 LIGHT YEARS AWAY. WHICH MEANS WE SEE THE PLEIADES NOT AS THEY
EXIST NOW, BUT AS THEY EXISTED 400 YEARS AGO, AT ABOUT THE SAME TIME GALILEO TRAINED A
TELESCOPE ON THEM AND DISCOVERED THEM TO BE A FAMILY OF DOZENS
OF SUNS. DEAN:
NEARBY WE HAVE THE DOUBLE CLUSTER, WHICH IS IN THE CONSTELLATION PERSEUS. FIRST LOOK UP AND TO THE RIGHT OF THE NORTH
STAR WHERE YOU’LL SEE THE 5 STARS THAT TRACE OUT THE ‘M’-SHAPED CONSTELLATION OF CASSIOPEIA
THE QUEEN. THE DOUBLE CLUSTER IS DOWN AND TO THE RIGHT
OF CASSIOPEIA-AND YOU PROBABLY WILL NEED BINOCULARS TO SEE THEM. BUT IF YOU ARE FAR AWAY FROM CITY LIGHTS,
YOU’LL NOTICE THAT THEY ARE EMBEDDED IN THE RIVER OF LIGHT WE CALL
THE MILKY WAY. JAMES:
THE DOUBLE CLUSTER OF PERSEUS MIGHT NOT LOOK LIKE MUCH AT FIRST,
BUT EACH CLUSTER HAS ABOUT 100 MORE STARS THAN THE PLEIADES,
THE REASON THEY AREN’T AS BRIGHT AS THE PLEIADES IS BECAUSE THEY ARE A WHOPPING SEVEN THOUSAND
LIGHT YEARS AWAY. MUCH FURTHER AWAY THAN THE PLEIADES, WHICH
MEANS WE SEE THEM NOT AS THEY EXIST NOW, BUT AS THEY EXISTED SEVEN THOUSAND YEARS AGO. DEAN:
HOWEVER, LIKE THE PLEIADES, THE DOUBLE CLUSTER ALSO CONSISTS OF SUPER-HOT
BLUE-WHITE STARS. AND THROUGH A SMALL TELESCOPE YOU MAY BE ABLE
TO DETECT A FEW MUCH COOLER RED ONES. JAMES:
AND IMAGINE, IF YOU CAN, WHAT THE TWIN CLUSTERS OF PERSEUS WOULD LOOK LIKE IF THEY COULD BE
MAGICALLY POSITIONED IN OUR SKIES AS CLOSE AS THE SEVEN
SISTERS ARE. THEY’D BE A DAZZLING SIGHT TO SEE! DEAN:
SPEAKING OF DAZZLING STARS, THERE ARE TWO IN PERSEUS THAT WE WANT YOU TO
CHECK OUT. LET’S HEAD BACK TO EARTH! JAMES:
OK, WE STILL HAVE OUR SKIES SET TO 11 P.M. AND AT THE CENTER OF THE CONSTELLATION PERSEUS,
YOU’LL SEE A STAR NAMED MIRFAK. MIRFAK IS ARABIC FOR ELBOW. DEAN:
LOOKS MORE LIKE HIS CHEST TO ME. ANYWAY, TO THE RIGHT OF MIRFAK WE SEE PERSEUS
HOLDING SOMETHING IN HIS OUTSTRETCHED ARM. TO THE ANCIENT GREEKS ITS THE STAR ALGOL A.K.A. THE WINKING EYE OF MEDUSA. SHE’S THE GORGON WITH SNAKES FOR HAIR THAT
COULD TURN YOU TO STONE. JAMES:
BUT OTHER CULTURES HAD SOME VERY FRIGHTENING NAMES FOR THIS STAR, LIKE:
THE SPECTRES HEAD, GHOSTS HEAD, SATANS HEAD, THE DOUBLE EYE, AND
DEAN’S PERSONAL FAVORITE, PILED UP CORPSES! WHY SUCH SCARY NAMES? DEAN:
WELL, ALGOL IS NO ORDINARY STAR – IT’S A SPECIAL TYPE OF STAR CALLED AN ECLIPSING VARIABLE. ALGOL IS REALLY TWO STARS THAT ORBIT EACH
OTHER. WHEN THE BIGGER, DIMMER STAR BLOCKS THE LIGHT
OF THE SMALLER BRIGHTER STAR, ALGOL DIMS LIKE CLOCKWORK EVERY
2.87 DAYS. JAMES:
PERSEUS IS USING MEDUSA’S HEAD TO SAVE PRINCESS ANDROMEDA FROM THE SEA MONSTER CONSTELLATION,
CETUS. LOOK FARTHER TO THE SOUTHEAST, AND MAYBE YOU
CAN MAKE OUT THE SEA MONSTER. DEAN:
HIS OUTLINE LOOKS MORE LIKE A RECLINER CHAIR. JAMES:
NEVERTHELESS, THIS WAS POSEIDONS VICIOUS PET SEA MONSTER WHO WE SEE TURNED TO STONE BY… DEAN:
MEDUSA’S HEAD! JAMES:
ALGOL STRIKES AGAIN! DEAN:
SO GO OUTSIDE AND CHECK OUT THE PLEIADES… JAMES:
AND THE DOUBLE CLUSTER OF PERSEUS, ALONG WITH MIRFAK,
HIS ELBOW… DEAN:
AND ALGOL, THE WINKING EYE OF MEDUSA. IT’S ALL THERE WHEN YOU… BOTH:
KEEP LOOKING UP!

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