Stargazing in the Caribbean
copyright© 1998 Jeannie Kuich

APRIL 2009 SKY CALENDAR

SPECIAL EVENTS:

The Lyrid meteor shower peaks over several days between the 21st and the 23rd and may be strong before dawn.
Mercury will have a triple conjunction or rendezvous with the Pleiades star sisters on the 30th, then passes through again on May 15th and again on June 15th.
The Moon and Venus make a splendid picture before dawn on the 22nd.

MOON PHASES:
Wed. 1st: First Quarter
Thu. 9th: Full
Fri. 17th: Last Quarter
Sat. 25th: New

MOON, PLANETS AND STAR DANCES:
Fri. 3rd: Moon and the star Pollux in Gemini in late evening
Sun. 5th: Moon and the star Regulus in Leo in late evening
Mon. 6th: Moon and Saturn in evening
Thu. 9th: Moon and the star Spica in evening
Mon. 13th: Moon and the star Antares in Scorpius in evening
Sun. 19th: Moon and Jupiter before dawn
Wed. 22nd: Moon and Venus with Mars below them before dawn
Sun. 26th: Moon and the Pleiades star sisters with Mercury below
Thu. 30th: Moon and the star Pollux in Gemini and Mercury near center of the Pleiades star sisters in evening


APRIL 2009 SOAP OPERA
Once you are pleasantly sprawled upon the foredeck of your fine charter yacht after a magnificent dinner, look up at the stars. We usually notice the patterns of stars which may form constellations. It may surprise you that at least half of all stars in our galaxy belong to double-star systems.

Two stars orbiting together are called binaries which are very common. The stars are held together by their mutual gravitational pull as they swing in elliptical orbits around a point in space between them which is called their center of gravity.

One of the most famous double stars is Epsilon Lyrae which is one and a half degrees northeast of the bright star Vega high in the northeast. Binoculars will show this double star which otherwise appears as a single star to your eyes. Actually, it is a double-double star with another pair of doubles.  All four stars share a common proper motion but the two doubles do not revolve around each other.

The first double star, discovered by Riccioli in 1650, was Mizar which forms the middle star of the handle of the Big Dipper in Ursa Major. Mizar’s companion is too close to it to be seen with your naked eye. There is also a fourth magnitude star immediately east of Mizar called Alcor. You are seeing double when you look at Mizar and Alcor, and Alcor shares the proper motion of Mizar.

Alcor is also a double star so you are actually seeing double twice. It used to be called the lost One of the Forgotten One by the Arabs. It was a test for good eyesight at that time but the star may have brightened since then because today, it is no longer difficult to see.

Check it out. If you think you are seeing double, you are!

Many other sky legends may be found in "Soap Operas Of The Sky", a stargazing guide by Jeannie Kuich.