This ancient constellation contains black holes as massive as a billion Suns, extrasolar planets and has acquired a meteor shower from an extinct neighbor. Its brightest star, a red giant 25 times the diameter of the Sun, is a sign that spring is here.
Arcturus is the brightest star in the constellation Boötes (the Herdsman) and the fourth brightest in the entire sky. It's been prominent in the skylore of many cultures for thousands of years, opened a World Fair, and may have been born in another galaxy.
Every year has its astronomical events – and its non-events. A non-event may be science that needs more evidence. However it's usually something for which the only “evidence” is in the mind of its creator. Here are five from 2018.
The sky is full of potential triangles. You just need three stars that aren't in a line. We have large triangular asterisms – the Summer, Spring, and Winter Triangles. And did you know we have two triangle constellations? The northern one is Triangulum, and it has a surprisingly long history.
Achievements may be honored with prizes and medals, but few get represented as children's toys. However Lego responded to a proposal to showcase women in space and astronomy by making a Lego set representing four such women and their major contributions. Who were these women?
Three days orbiting Earth strapped into a space capsule so primitive that no one could land in it. So how did the cosmonaut get home? That's part of the story of the first woman in space, on a solo flight twenty years before NASA sent Sally Ride into orbit on a Space Shuttle.
Saint Patrick's Day is associated with the shamrock and the color green. Although there don't seem to be any cosmic shamrocks, there are many green phenomena in the skies. Discover a beautiful green nebula, what excites electrons, and why con men sold “comet pills”.
John Herschel was the son of William Herschel, discoverer of the planet Uranus. But he earned his own reputation as an astronomer, mathematician, chemist, translator, artist, writer, and pioneer of photography. When he died he was laid to rest in Westminster Abbey near Sir Isaac Newton.
You've made it through the winter and watched the food stores diminish. But the days are getting longer and green shoots are appearing. Spring is on the way. The festivals of the vernal equinox emphasize rebirth and renewal. In many cultures the equinox is also the New Year.
Caroline Herschel was an intelligent young woman trapped in domestic servitude by her mother. Her brother William rescued her and trained her as a singer. After he discovered the planet Uranus, the two of them ended up forming a great partnership whose work revolutionized the study of astronomy.