Let’s continue to get to know the Little Dipper a little more. As mentioned over the last few weeks, use the Big Dipper to find the Little Dipper. If an imaginary line is drawn between the two outer stars in the bowl of the Big Dipper, called Merak and Dubhe, and extend the line pass Dubhe, it points to the next bright star, which is Polaris. As noted last week, Polaris is also known as the North Star and the Big and Little Dippers swing around it, actually all the stars rotate around Polaris. Polaris is the tip of the handle, Yildun, Epsilon are the stars in the rest of the handle. While Zeta and Eta are the inner stars of the bowl, Kochab and Pherkad are the stars on the outside of the bowl.
According to Constellation Guide.com, Alpha Ursae Minoris, better known as Polaris or the North Star, is the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor. Polaris is really a multiple star system, consisting of a main star, two smaller companion stars and two more distant components. The main component in the system is a yellow supergiant star with a mass four and a half times of the sun. The two smaller stars are main sequence stars.
Yildun or Delta Ursae Minoris is a white main sequence dwarf star and has a radius almost three times of the sun and is 47 times more luminous. Epsilon Ursae Minoris is a triple star system. The primary component in the system is an eclipsing spectroscopic binary star.
Zeta Ursae Minoris is also known as Ahfa al Farkadain. It is another white main sequence star. The star’s traditional name is derived from the Arabic phrase ahfa al-farqadayn, which means “the dimmer of the two calves.” Eta Ursae Minoris is known as Anwar al Farkadain, “the brighter of the two calves” or Alasco. It is a main sequence dwarf star. It is barely visible to the naked eye.
Kochab or Beta Ursae Minoris, is an orange giant star and is the brightest in the Little Dipper’s bowl and its radius is 42 times of the sun. Lastly, Pherkad or Gamma Ursae Minoris, is an old Arabian name, which is derived from a phrase meaning “the dim one of the two calves.” Pherkad is indeed not as bright as Kochab, which is close to Polaris in brightness. It is a white supergiant but is also classified as a shell star, which means that it has a circumstellar disk of gas around its equator.
Usually just Polaris, Kochab and Pherkad are the only stars that are visible in the Little Dipper and that will certainly be the case this weekend as the moon is becoming fuller. That phase is called waxing. Saturday night the waxing moon will have a close approach with Jupiter, according to In-The-Sky.org. Look south and near the horizon after sunset. While on Sunday, the waxing moon will have a close approach with Saturn. Again it will be after sunset but this time look at the horizon in the southwest.
On Monday, the moon will be full. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, August’s full Moon is traditionally called the Sturgeon Moon because the giant sturgeon of the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain were most readily caught during this part of summer. Other names it also has are Full Green Corn Moon, Wheat Cut Moon, Moon When All Things Ripen and Blueberry Moon. All signaling when they were ready for harvest.
In addition, the Old Farmer’s Almanac has a recommendation for best days for activities, partly based on the lunar cycle. For instance, for this month, the best days for cutting hay are the 7, 8 and 9. The best days to quit smoking are on 5, 9 and 27. The best days to cut hair to slow down growth are on the 5 and 6 but if you want to cut hair to encourage growth, then it should be cut on 21 or 22. One would think that its recommendations would all be related to farming but apparently they are not!
Then don’t forget — we’re in the midst of three meteor showers. Again, according to American Meteor Society the Delta Aquarid started on July 12 and goes all the way until Aug. 23. It just peaked but Alpha Capricornids is going on until Aug. 15 and has yet to peak, as well as Perseids, the most popular and biggest meteor shower, will go until Aug. 24 and also has yet to peak.
Look Up appears in the weekend edition. If you have any astronomical questions or facts you’d like to share email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Look Up.”