Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Stargazing Arcturus

The other night we were out at our newly found dark sky site in the middle of a green zone off the Natchez Trace. We had a breathtaking view after the moon set, and saw great views of Mars, Saturn, and the Orion nebula. We even took the obligatory photo of the moon with the digital camera that was in the car.

I noticed Arcturus as it rose above the horizon flashing between green and red... I recall seeing this probably 20 years ago when I was in college. During one semester, I had a class that required many hours in the computer lab. Walking back from the computer lab I would head east to my dorm and could see Arcturus on the low horizon. It would usually flash red and green... I didn't know which star (or planet for that matter) it was at the time, and to be honest didn't give it much thought.

All these years later and I haven't had that low horizon available since - until we started going out to the Trace. Sure enough, Arcturus has been faithfully waiting for me.

Does anyone know why this star sparkles so much? Once it has risen more than about 20 degrees the sparkle starts to fade. Does it start up again as it goes to set?

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