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Earthsky Tonight — April 5, 2010: Star in the constellation Bootes makes history

Courtesy of EarthSky
A Clear Voice for Science

April 5, 2010

In 2007, a faint star in the constellation Bootes the Herdsman made astronomical history. An international team of astronomers, led by Jean-Francis Donati and Claire Montau of France, caught the star Tau Bootis flipping its north and south magnetic poles while these astronomers were mapping the magnetic fields of stars. This was the first time a magnetic reversal had been observed on any star other than our sun.

Astronomers are intently watching Tau Bootis for future magnetic turnovers. They’re hoping Tau Bootis will enable them to understand how magnetic engines drive stars, including the sun. In addition, Tau Bootis harbors a planet that’s several times larger than Jupiter. Hopefully, this star can shed some light on the relationship between stellar magnetic cycles and planetary climate.

Tau Bootis is faintly visible in a dark country sky. Look eastward this evening for the blazing yellow-orange star Arcturus, the brightest in your eastern sky. To verify that you’re looking at Arcturus, look for the Big Dipper up high in your northern sky. “Follow the arc” of the Big Dipper handle to Arcturus.

On spring evenings, the star Muphrid shines to the upper right of Arcturus, and Tau Bootis lodges to the upper right of Muphrid.

Written by Bruce McClure

Other Links:

Astronomy Picture of the Day from NASA/JPL

CHANDRA Photo Album

Sky and Telescope

National Geographic

Space Com

Amazing Space

The York County Astronomical Society

Scope City

James S McDonnell Planetarium

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