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Monday, October 18, 2010

Starfinder: Arc to Arcturus

This is the first installation of an ongoing series of star identification posts, focusing mainly on stars commonly used for navigation.

The very bright reddish star to the west early in the evening this month is Arcturus, by far the brightest star in the constellation Bootes, the herdsman. Arcturus is most easily found by following the handle of the Big Dipper to the nearest bright star.

Arcturus is most immediately notable for the fact that there are no other bright stars anywhere close by it. It also has a proper motion which is inconsistent with that of other stars in our neighborhood. In other words, Arcturus is moving against the flow of traffic of the other stars in the area, including our sun. One possible explanation for this is that Arcturus may actually be a remnant of another galaxy which long ago merged with the Milky Way.

And that, I think, is pretty cool.

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