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Why do some stars burn brighter than others?
The night sky – it shines with the luxury of a thousand stars, but you can enjoy the magnificent picture to your heart's content only away from the bustle of the city. But why are some of them brighter than others? To do this, it is necessary to understand how the life cycle of a cosmic body passes. When a star is forming, hydrogen will be the main component of its composition. The larger the object, the more likely it is that a nuclear fusion reaction will occur: helium is formed from hydrogen.
As the mass of the star increases, its core becomes hotter. The most massive stars live very little: the hydrogen fuel in the core runs out very quickly. After that, the object begins to burn heavy elements, gradually expanding and turning into a giant. From this moment on, the brightness of the celestial body increases significantly.
The used indicator of the brightness of the stars is the apparent magnitude (m). This is a measure of the brightness of a stellar body from the point of view of an earthly observer. The lower the number, the brighter the subject.
Overview of the brightest stars in the sky
|Nomination||a place||name||Apparent magnitude|
|Rating of the brightest stars in the sky||15||Antares||0.96 (variable)|
|3||Alpha Centauri||-0.27 (VAR)|
Apparent Magnitude: 0.96 (v)
The brightest star in the constellation Scorpio and one of the Red Giants of the Milky Way. And in the sky, Antares is seen as a red light. Its name is Anti-Ares, which means the antipode of Mars. The bright, unusual light of this star aroused great interest among the ancient peoples: the Chinese considered it one of the three most influential, the Persians attributed it to the royal.
Antares is 600 light years from our planet. If we compare it with the Sun, the mega-giant is 800 times larger in size, 400 times in circumference, and 65,000 times in brightness. Moreover, the mass of Antares exceeds the mass of the Sun by only 17 times. Such a small mass index with a huge size indicates an insignificant density of the substance from which the star is formed. You can enjoy the best view of the property (especially against the backdrop of the sun) in May. The companion star Antares was discovered in 1813, but due to the brightness of its brother it is rather difficult to see it, although it is considered large (5th magnitude) and 170 times brighter than the Sun.
Apparent Magnitude: 0.85 (re)
When looking at Aldebaran from Earth, it seems to be combined with the Hyades star cluster (represented by 4 stars, which are united by attraction). Together they resemble the English letter V, but their integrity is only apparent: Aldebaran is a loner. However, not entirely: a red dwarf revolves around it – a modest companion, so dim that it is impossible to notice it without special equipment. The nearest 'neighbors' (excluding the satellite) are located at a distance of 20 light years from Aldebaran.
The star got its name from the Arabs – in translation 'aldebaran' means 'follower'. But this giant has other names: the Romans called him Palilius, the Dreks – Lamparus. Sometimes Aldebaran is called 'Bullseye'. The star is considered a normal giant that glows orange. Located 65 light years from our planet. The giant is 44 times larger than our sun and 150 times more powerful. According to scientists, Aldebaran has already burned all the hydrogen on its surface and is now destroying helium: the star has greatly increased in size. You can see her in the sky during the winter months.
Apparent Magnitude: 0.77
'Pole Star', the brightest in the constellation of the Southern Cross and one of the few stars in the night sky, whose name is not associated with mythology. It was formed from the name of the constellation itself (in Latin it sounds exactly like 'Crooks'), Alpha Crooks means A-Crooks. Observations of the current century show that Akrux is not just a star, but a constellation consisting of 3 celestial bodies.
In the scientific community, there is still debate about whether it is worth including the third star (Alpha 3) in the Akrux system. Such doubts arose for two reasons: it is too remote and too bright for its class. The mass of the most important star of the Akrux system is 14 times the mass of the Sun, the second is 10 times. Research shows that both objects in the future can go supernova as a result of an explosion and then turn into a massive white dwarf.
Apparent Magnitude: 0.77
With the creation of a high-resolution telescope, it became possible to measure a star whose motion is so fast that its shape is elongated along the equator. Altair is a white, hot, non-spherical star. The first image of it was received only in 2007. Altair is one of the stars closest to our planet, creating a whole line known as the Eagle Family. The distance from Earth to Altair is only 16.8 light years. Altair is one of the peaks of the 'summer-autumn triangle' and is observed during the summer-autumn period in the Northern Hemisphere.
To understand how great Altair's speed is, it is enough to compare it with the speed of the Sun: if it makes a full circle in 25.05 days, Altair needs only 8.9 hours to do this. In the 2000s, studies were carried out, as a result of which an assumption was made: due to the high speed of rotation, the force of gravity and the temperature at the equator are lower. In addition, the equator of the star is less bright than the rest of it: this is the so-called gravitational darkening.
Apparent Magnitude: 0.61 (v)
Khadar is a bright blue giant. It is she who is depicted on the Australian flag. It is the second brightest space object in the constellation Centaurus and certainly one of the brightest stars in the night sky. The distance from Hadar to Earth is quite impressive – 530 light years. Khadar or Khadar-A – 2 stellar twins, 3 astronomical units (150 million km) apart from each other. Space objects are considered ancient: their age is at least 12 million years. Both stars have an impressive mass: it varies according to different sources from 11 to 133 solar masses.
You can only see the star in the night sky of the Southern Hemisphere. Recent evidence suggests that Khadar-A is expanding. Some astronomers believe that this will lead to the transformation of the twins into supergiants, and after the explosion – into supernovae.
Apparent Magnitude: 0.5 (V)
According to some sources, this supermassive giant can emit its last breath at any moment, creating a massive superflare and leaving behind the Crab Nebula with an invisible star or black hole in the center. The problem is that it is not possible to predict this event even to a remote extent, because astronomy is a very young science, and Betelgeuse is a mysterious and poorly studied star. This is not surprising, because it is located unimaginably far from our planet: according to some data, in 420-650 light years, according to others – up to 1300 light years.
The estimate of the magnitude and mass of this supergiant is rather averaged: the mass of Betelgeuse is about 17 solar radii, and the radius is 950-1200 solar radii, respectively. It is known for sure that the star does not belong to any close cluster and is not a double one. Will there be an explosion? Scientists do not know this for certain: they probably only claim that the star is in the final cycle of development, when the amount of carbon and heavy elements is so small that maintaining stable thermonuclear processes is no longer possible.
Apparent Magnitude: 0.46
Achernar is a bright star with an incredible rotation speed around its axis – about 260-310 km / s. This is a representative of the constellation Eridanus and its brightest object. Due to the high rotation speed, Achernar is strongly compressed in the region of the poles, which is why its shape is not the traditional spherical, but ellipsoidal. The tremendous speed of rotation also affects the temperature of the cosmic body: at the poles it reaches 20,000 K, at the equator – about 10,000 K.
The mass of Achernar is quite large and is about 8 solar. The distance from the star to our planet is 139 light years. This bright space object can only be seen in southern latitudes. You can see Achernar in all its glory in November, and south of 33 0 north latitude, the star does not go beyond the horizon: residents of Asian countries and the equator can enjoy its view all year round.
The name of the star is translated from Arabic as 'end of the river'. The fact is that earlier Achernar was considered the last in the constellation Eridanus (today it is known that it is Akamar).
Interesting fact. The name of the star is often found in science fiction books: there are at least six references to Achernar in science fiction stories.
Apparent Magnitude: 0.38
This is Alpha of the constellation Canis Minor. It can be said without exaggeration that Procyon is a constellation. Represented by 2 stars that can be observed without optics. The second is Gomeza. The origin of the name of the luminary is rather unusual and it was formed on the basis of long-term observation. Literally translated from Greek as 'before the dog'. In the literary translation, another name is found – 'the harbinger of the dog'. And all because Procyon appears in the sky 40 minutes before the rising Sirius.
The celestial object is not very far from us: only 11.41 light years away. Its radius is 1.9 times the sun, and the brightness is 8 times that of the sun. Procyon is considered a subgiant and from the brightness of the glow it can be concluded that the helium synthesis in its interior has already stopped and the process of expansion of the object has begun. Gradually, the star will turn into a red giant.
The constellation Canis Minor rises slightly above the horizon, since it is equatorial. To see it, and at the same time the star, you need to turn to face the south, find Orion's belt and draw a figurative line to the east from its lower luminary. Procyon is the brightest in its constellation, so it won't be difficult to find it. The best observation period is winter.
Apparent Magnitude: 0.12 (V)
The star is considered one of the brightest not only in the constellation Orion: within the visible galaxy, Rigel has practically no competitors. The power of its glow is simply unimaginable: the star is 85,000 times brighter than the Sun. The distance to the object is as colossal as the intensity of its luminescence – 773 light years. Rigel shines so powerfully that it illuminates the colossal space around him: he makes visible the dust clouds of his constellation.
The giant is not a loner. It is part of a system of 3 stars, 2 of which are a telescopic double star united by gravitational force. The blue-white giant is 68 times larger than our sun. The crossbar is distinguished by a changeable brilliance: processes occur on its surface that cause the pulsation of the star.
Interesting fact. The power of Rigel's glow is so great that if he were in the place of the Sun, there would be no trace of the planets of our system: any object at a distance of up to 150 million would instantly evaporate into a stream of terrible stellar wind.
Apparent Magnitude: 0.08
It is considered one of the brightest in the sky and deservedly takes the honorable 6th place. In terms of the strength of the light coming down from it, the Capella exceeds some giants like Aldebaran and Betelgeuse. It is 77 times brighter than the sun. The latest indicators indicate that the Capella is at the stage of completing its life path, although by human standards this will happen very, very soon.
The Capella is considered a double celestial body: it consists of two equivalent giants (Capella Aa and Capella Ab). That is why it is so clearly visible even without special optics. It is known that more than 240,000 years ago, the Capella was considered the brightest in the earth's sky: then it reached the closest possible distance to our planet. Today, it is located a third further, so it is inferior in brightness to several other stars.
Capella Aa is a red giant, but Capella Ab has not yet gone through its evolutionary path: thermonuclear processes inside it have already been completed, but helium has not yet begun to burn. By the way, despite the different degrees of development, both objects are of the same age – they are approximately 5.25 billion years old.
Capella is the brightest and largest star in the constellation Auriga. The ancient Greeks identified with him the Athenian king Erichthonius, leading a horse harness. According to legend, it was he who invented the first chariot. On the shoulder of the king sits a heavenly goat – Capella. In mythology, this goat nursed little Zeus with her milk, who was hiding in Crete from his father Kronos. According to one of the legends, while playing with a goat, the god accidentally broke off her horn, and riches fell from there. It was a cornucopia.
Apparent Magnitude: 0.03
In the summer-autumn period, residents of the Northern Hemisphere can observe the Great Summer Triangle. Vega is its highest point. It is considered the brightest in the constellation Lyra. The distance from it to the Sun is just over 25 light years. Vega played an important role in the development of astrophysics. It became a reference point in the developed photometric system for determining the color and luminous intensity of cosmic bodies.
Vega was the first photographed star after the Sun, and in the 12th century BC. it pointed to the North Pole, that is, it was Polar and will be so again in 12,000 years. The source of Vega's energy is the process of thermonuclear fusion of helium from hydrogen. Its brightness is 37 times greater than that of the sun, and its mass is only 2 times greater. Because of its impressive mass, Vega will exist as a white giant for about 1 billion years (only 1/10 of the Sun's life), then it will turn into a red giant, and even later – into a white dwarf. Now experts are studying the possibility of exoplanets in the object. So far, only a disk of dust has been found around Vega.
Apparent Magnitude: -0.05 (v)
Home in the constellation Bootes and one of the brightest in the earth's sky. If we talk about the brightness of the glow, then Arcturus is 110 times more powerful than the Sun. The parameters of the cosmic body are also impressive: although its mass is practically equal to the sun, the radius exceeds the solar one by 27 times. The object is very light due to the low content of heavy metals.
But brightness is not the main feature of Arcturus. He is able to change his position in space, that is, he has his own movement. Among all the stars observed in the sky, Arcturus is second only to Alpha Centauri in terms of its own speed. Observing a space object for a long time, astronomers noticed that it does not move independently: it is 'accompanied' by a whole group of smaller celestial bodies and their number exceeds 50. The magnitude of these stars and the speed of their own motion are approximately the same, so it was decided to unite the group into asterism – Stream of Arcturus.
Arcturus is considered an old star with a low content of heavy metals in its composition. This speaks of the extragalactic origin of the star, since there are no stars with a similar composition in the Milky Way. The fact that Arcturus is a 'guest' of our galaxy is also indicated by the age and type of the object: it is an orange giant with an age of 7.1 billion years.
Apparent Magnitude: -0.27
The stellar system closest to the Solar System is bright, unusual and well-studied. Alpha Centauri is a triple star consisting of Centauri A, Centauri B and Proxima Centauri. It is 2 billion years older than the Sun – it is already 6 billion years old. It is impossible to distinguish the first two stars with the naked eye: they form a real tandem – incredibly powerful in their brightness. The light emitted by Centauri A and Centauri B reaches the limits of the Earth in 4.3 years. The third star is a humble red dwarf.
Despite the proximity, at the moment it is not possible to get to Alpha Centauri: the journey on a modern spacecraft will take more than 1 million years. Only residents of the Southern Hemisphere can watch the beautiful spectacle of the brightly shining Alpha Centauri. The star is important for terrestrial navigation: by drawing a line from Centauri B to a line running from the Southern Cross, you can get a pole indicator.
The bright star was included in the star atlas by the ancient Greeks in the distant 4th century BC, and was divided into 2 objects only in 1689. Proxima was discovered in 1915. Astronomers devote a lot of time and energy to studying the Alpha Centauri system in the hopes of finding habitable planets. In 2012, it was announced that it had discovered a planet slightly larger than Earth and orbiting its star at an acceptable speed. Except she's too hot. Its position is comparable to that of Mercury in our system.
Apparent Magnitude: -0.72
An incredibly bright space object, the luminous power of which exceeds the solar one by 15,000 times. The yellowish supergiant is located 310 light-years from Earth. But, even despite such a distance, Canopus is clearly visible in the earth's horizon. The unusual luminary has played an important role in history, navigation, art for many years. For sailors, Canopus was a real guiding star: it was often called the 'South Pole' for pointing in the direction of the South Pole.
Canopus is also used for astrocorrection: its position is guided by when launching launch vehicles. Although the star is considered one of the brightest in the sky, it can not be observed in every point of the globe: it shines only in the Southern Hemisphere. And in some countries, such as New Zealand and Australia, the cosmic body is always above the horizon.
Canopus was discovered several millennia ago by Arab stargazers. Most often, references to a bright star can be found in Indian and Egyptian sources. The name Canopus is associated with the name of the legendary navigator who stormed Troy. Astronomers call the star Alpha Carina: it is the main and brightest star in the constellation Carina.
Apparent Magnitude: -1.46
The brightest star in the terrestrial firmament, shining in the constellation Canis Major and visible in the Northern Hemisphere (especially during winter). The star is considered the closest to our planet: it is located 8.6 light years from the sun. Sirius is the simplest object for non-professional astronomers: a photo of it is very easy to obtain. And at the same time, the brightness of Sirius makes it difficult to photograph: processing the data obtained requires considerable preparation.
Observing Sirius, astronomers noticed that the trajectory of the star is a wavy curve. Moreover, the fluctuations were noticeable even for a short period of time, which is very unusual, since the star is located at a colossal distance from us. Scientists have suggested that a hidden object orbiting Sirius with a period of 50 years is responsible for such a trajectory. And, after almost 20 years, they finally managed to find a tiny star – the first white dwarf – one of the most massive ones found to date.
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