Sky & Telescope - May 2024 - 4

SPECTRUM by Peter Tyson
Meet the Stars
A QUICK GLANCE at the night sky might give the uninitiated the
impression that all stars are alike - just a lot of white sparks. But
that's like looking at a crowd of people at a distance and saying that
all humans are alike - just a lot of two-legged clothes-wearers.
As all astronomers know, stars come in a bewildering array of
types, and their stories are as diverse as those of human beings. In this issue, we
inquire into the lives and, in some cases, deaths of some quite remarkable stellar
objects. Each boasts one or more unusual characteristics that make it stand
out from all those white sparks.
Take Barnard's Star, the subject of Howard Banich's article on page 60. This
red dwarf in the constellation Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer, is the speediest
star astronomers know of. See the chart on page 63 for a view of how far Barnard's
Star will travel against the background stars in just two centuries (more
than the apparent diameter of the Moon). It moves so rapidly that it puts the lie
to the age-old term " fixed star. "
Another red dwarf of distinction is Wolf 359, which
The red dwarf star
Wolf 359, in an artist's
illustration
Ken Croswell writes about on page 34. Discovered in
1918, it's a wonder it was discovered at all, certainly
with the equipment of the day. Why? Because it emits
barely more visible light than Pluto. For decades after its
initial detection in 1916, it remained the intrinsically
dimmest star known to us.
The brightest star known to us is the focus of Tom
Dobbins' piece on page 52. Dobbins - who also bylines
this month's Focal Point on page 84 - explores the history
of attempts to observe and image the Sun's striking surface granulation.
As blinding as the Sun is to us, its light pales in comparison to that released
when stars end their days, as featured in Science Editor Camille Carlisle's cover
story on page 12. Each supernova she presents sent out shock waves and strewed
debris, including newly forged chemical elements, far out into the surrounding
environment. As with stars themselves, supernova remnants are " as variegated
as people, " Carlisle writes, and from these celestial splatters astronomers can
learn much about the exploding progenitor that produced them.
If this issue inspires you to read more about singular suns, I encourage you to
explore our online series " Meet the Stars " (https://is.gd/meetstars). Here you'll
find profiles by Daniel Johnson and others of the night sky's brightest stars,
including their type, location, mythology, and other aspects. Consider also our
stellar series in the March, April, and May 2019 issues on
Polaris, Alpha Centauri, and Betelgeuse, respectively. All in
all, you might just find yourself star-struck.
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Sky & Telescope - May 2024

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Sky & Telescope - May 2024

Contents
Sky & Telescope - May 2024 - Cover1
Sky & Telescope - May 2024 - Cover2
Sky & Telescope - May 2024 - 1
Sky & Telescope - May 2024 - Contents
Sky & Telescope - May 2024 - 3
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