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Saturday, April 25, 2015

EarthSky Tonight—September 28, How to find the loneliest star

Courtesy of EarthSky
A Clear Voice for Science

Which star is loneliest? Most people would say the answer is Fomalhaut, a bright star in the constellation Piscis Austrinus the Southern Fish.

The coming month or so is the best time to see this star. So, go outside now … and learn to keep company with the loneliest star.

On this autumn night, at about 8 to 9 p.m., look for a solitary star that’s peeking out at you just above the southeast horizon. Do you see it? No other bright star sits so low in the southeast at this time of year. That is Fomalhaut. The much brighter point of light to the upper left of this star on these autumn 2010 evenings is no star at all. That blazing world is the king planet Jupiter.

Fomalhaut is a bright white star. With Jupiter on its heels in 2010, it dances close the southern horizon until the wee hours after midnight on these early autumn nights.

In late September 2010, time to search for Comet Hartley 2 with binoculars

Fomalhaut is sometimes called the loneliest star because it is the brightest star in an otherwise empty-looking part of the sky. It is also sometimes called the Lonely One, or the Solitary One, or sometimes the Autumn Star. Depending on whose list you believe, Fomalhaut is either the 17th or the 18th brightest star in the sky. Roughly translated from Arabic, the star’s name means mouth of the fish or whale. Its constellation, Piscis Austrinus, represents the Southern Fish.

Besides being one of the brighter stars in the night sky, Fomalhaut has interest to professional astronomers. In recent years, this star has been found to have a protoplanetary disk. This is a ring of dust that surrounds Fomalhaut and a companion star within one light-year. This dust ring surrounding these stars might someday form into planets. Perhaps planets are forming there now. Just think of that as you gaze upon Fomalhaut, the lonely autumn star! 
 More about Fomalhaut here.

Written by Kelley Knight Heins


Astronomy Picture of the Day from NASA/JPL

CHANDRA Photo Album

U.S. Naval Observator Astronomical Information center

Universe Today

StarDate Online

Sky and Telescope

National Geographic

Space Com

Simostronomy Blog

Amazing Space

The York County Astronomical Society

Scope City

James S McDonnell Planetarium

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