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Brightest Stars

Look south in late autumn / early winter
Tonight | Dec 08, 2014

Star of the week: Menkar is the Whale’s alpha star

Okay, it’s not the most famous star in Cetus. It’s not even the brightest, although it carries the designation Alpha. But Menkar has its own claims to fame.

Star trails, one of which is Hamal, via H. Raab on Flickr.
Tonight | Dec 02, 2014

Hamal is an ancient equinox star

The star Hamal, also known as Alpha Arietis, is the brightest star in Aries the Ram. Learn the role this star played in defining the term First Point in Aries.

Mira, from NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer
Tonight | Nov 27, 2014

Mira the Wonderful

This star in the constellation Cetus varies in brightness like clockwork over 11 months. That’s why, for centuries, stargazers have called it Mira the Wonderful.

Four stars in the Almach system
Tonight | Nov 18, 2014

Star of the week: Almach is a quadruple star system

Almach looks like a single star to the eye and like a colorful double star through a telescope. But today we know Almach as four stars.

Achernar is flattened because it rotates rapidly
Tonight | Nov 11, 2014

Achernar is the End of the River

Achernar – also known as Alpha Eridani – is the 9th brightest star in Earth’s sky and the flattest star known.

Al Risha via STScI
Nov 05, 2014

Al Risha knots two Fishes of Pisces together

The star Al Risha in Pisces is not bright. But – at the tip of the graceful V in Pisces – it’s very noticeable.

Medusa_by_Caravaggio-cp
Tonight | Oct 31, 2014

Algol is the Demon Star

On (or around) Halloween, look for Algol – a star named for a demon!

Image via thebadastronomer on Flickr
Tonight | Oct 27, 2014

Mirach is guide star to three galaxies

The orange-colored star Mirach in the constellation Andromeda acts as your guide star to three different galaxies: M31 (Andromeda galaxy), M33 (Triangulum galaxy), and NGC 404.

X-ray view of Deneb Kaitos via NASA/CXC
Tonight | Oct 24, 2014

Deneb Kaitos is the Sea-Monster’s Tail

Look for Deneb Kaitos – brightest star in Cetus the Whale – highest in the sky around mid-evening in northern autumn.

Upside-down Cassiopeia on Mercator globe.
Tonight | Oct 14, 2014

Schedar lies at the Queen’s heart

For much of the Northern Hemisphere, on clear nights you can always see the brightest star in the constellation Cassiopeia.

Image via Tim Jones/McDonald Observatory.
Tonight | Sep 30, 2014

Gamma Cephei is a future North Star

Gamma Cephei (aka Errai) is a binary star system with at least one planet. It’ll someday be a North Star for Earth.

fomalhaut_disk_planet_300
Tonight | Sep 24, 2014

Fomalhaut had first visible exoplanet

Fomalhaut is sometimes called the Loneliest Star. Its planet Fomalhaut b was the first beyond our solar system to be visible to the human eye.

lights_tunnel_distance
Tonight | Sep 09, 2014

Delta Cephei is a famous variable star

Delta Cephei doubles in brightness every 5.36 days. This star and others like it have helped establish the known scale of our galaxy and universe.

Alpha Cephei, or Alderamin, via M. Zao.
Tonight | Sep 02, 2014

Alpha Cephei is a rapidly rotating star

Cepheus the King is not a very conspicuous constellation and has only one relatively bright star, Alderamin – aka Alpha Cephei. This star rotates rapidly!

South to overhead late summer to autumn
Tonight | Aug 28, 2014

61 Cygni is the Flying Star

61 Cygni isn’t bright. But it moves exceptionally rapidly against the background of more distant stars. Its motion reveals its nearness to Earth.

Albireo via Ian Anthony
Tonight | Aug 06, 2014

Albireo one of sky’s finest double stars

Albireo is known best for the striking color contrast between its two stars, with the brighter star gold and the dimmer star blue.

aquarius_black
Tonight | Jul 29, 2014

Star Skat is near radiant for Delta Aquarid meteors

How to spot it, plus an explanation of why meteors in annual showers have radiant points.

Vega via NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Tonight | Jul 24, 2014

Vega is the Harp Star

One of the prettiest stories in all skylore surrounds this star. “On the 7th night of the 7th moon … “

Stars Eltanin and Rastaban, near bright star Vega
Tonight | Jul 16, 2014

Eltanin and Rastaban are the Dragon’s eyes

On summer nights, two famous stars shine down from high in the northern sky. Eltanin and Rastaban represent the fiery Eyes of the constellation Draco the Dragon.

Shaula (l) and Lesath via Starfield Observatory
Tonight | Jul 08, 2014

Shaula and Lesath are the Scorpion’s stinger stars

At the end of the Scorpius the Scorpion’s graceful pattern of stars, you’ll find the Stinger stars. Shaula and Lesath are noticeably bright and close together.

Antares and M4 image by stargazerbob@aol.com
Tonight | Jul 01, 2014

Antares is Heart of the Scorpion

The ruby Heart of Scorpius is the 16th brightest star in our sky and one of the most gigantic stars known.