Tioga Jenny on
October 16, 2010 at
My favorite star of all the twinkling gems in the autumn sky is Capella, a 0-magnitude sparkler in the northeast. Capella is the sixth brightest star as seen from Earth, but because not all the stars can be seen at once, it is one of the brightest visible in the fall sky, depending on what time you go out to have a look. Capella used to be the brightest star in the sky at magnitude -1.9 around 200,000 years ago.
Capella is considered a yellow star, but because it lies lower on the horizon and is seen through the thicker portion of our atmosphere, it appears to flash brilliantly in a multitude of colors. Capella attracts attention for this police-light strobe effect, seeming to twinkling in red, orange, green and blue. Some people mistake it for a distant plane with blinking lights until they realize it is not moving. The star is a treat to watch with the naked eye, binoculars, and a telescope, because the closer look through optical aid just improves the view of the light show.
In actuality, Capella isn’t one star at all but four stars. The pair of binary star systems lies 42 light-years away. Capella is named for a small female goat in mythology. The constellation it is in, Auriga, is a charioteer, and Capella has been considered to be riding in the chariot.
+ + + + + + + + + +
Kelly Kizer Whitt loves clean, clear, and dark skies. Kelly studied English and Astronomy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked for Astronomy magazine. She is currently the Feature Writer for Astronomy and Space atSuite101.com. You can follow her on Twitter attwitter.com/Astronomommy