Sky & Telescope - May 2024 - 61

ard's Star
(a " Mr. Joy, " as noted in the article) determined with the
60-inch reflector on Mt. Wilson. Barnard notes that his
magnitude estimates were probably skewed by poor seeing,
moonlight, and the color difference between P ( " yellowish " )
and the main comparison star ( " bluish white " ). The modern
value for the star's visual magnitude is, in fact, closer to 9.5.
Barnard's Star is located about ¾° northwest of 4.8-magnitude
66 Ophiuchi, and it's well-placed for most of the spring,
summer, and autumn in a distinctive part of northeastern
Ophiuchus. It's variable and hence is also designated V2500
Ophiuchi. Its variability is attributed to infrequent flares -
in fact, old M dwarfs, such as Barnard's Star, don't undergo
regular flaring activity, so it was a surprise when it erupted
in the late 1990s. During that episode, the star brightened by
half a magnitude.
Since the 1960s, astronomers have regularly announced
the possible discovery of planets orbiting Barnard's Star. The
first time was in 1968, when Peter van de Kamp (then at
Swarthmore College) published a paper reporting the detection
of a planet with 1.7 times the mass of Jupiter. However,
High proper motion makes this little red
dwarf in Ophiuchus the perfect target to
follow over the years.
later observations refuted this. Red dwarf stars are by far
the most common type of star in the Milky Way, clocking
in at some 70%. So, if they typically have planets, then
planets must be everywhere. Heck, two of the four closest
stars to our Sun are red dwarfs (Proxima Centauri and
Barnard's Star) - and though Proxima has two confirmed
planets, an undisputed planet detection around Barnard's
Star remains elusive.
Follow that Star!
Observing a star that likely has a retinue of worlds orbiting it
would be amazing - but what keeps bringing me back to BarSPEEDY
STAR Barnard's Star is the prominent orange-red object
at the center of this image dating to 2017. At bottom (right of center)
is a group of stars reminiscent of a formation of flying geese, which is
the smaller of two similar asterisms. Both are helpful for pinpointing the
highest proper-motion star in our sky. Even if you have a Go To telescope,
you'll need to figure out which star is Barnard's Star within your
field of view - identifying both asterisms is important, especially if you
observe with a small telescope. A good chart is required!
sk yand tele scope .o r g * MAY 2024 61
RICK JOHNSON / CC BY-ND 4.0
http://skyandtelescoper.org

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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