Archive for the exoplanets Category – News Blog – The Big Dipper Adds a Star

Posted in amateur astronomy, astro blogs, astronomical history, astronomy eduction, exoplanets, observing, sidewalk astronomy, Sky & Telescope, space, stellar astronomy, Student Astronomy, urban skies with tags , , , on December 13, 2009 by bellaireastro – News Blog – The Big Dipper Adds a Star.

One my favorite targets for me and for star parties is the optical pair Alcor & Mizar and Mizar is also a binary system itself which is apparent through pretty much any telescope.

Alcor and Mizar

Alcor and Mizar

In reality each of the stars in the Mizar pair is a binary making the whole telescopic view a total of 6 stars when you include the star that also shows up in the field-of-view.

Alcor's new companion

Alcor a & b

Recently astronomers at the Palomar observatory were looking for extra-solar planets using near-infrared techniques and discovered that Alcor also is a binary system! That makes a total of 7 stars when you look at that one spot in the Big Dipper. Read more over at


Jill Tarter TED Prize

Posted in exoplanets, galactic astronomy, IYA, SETI, space with tags , on February 21, 2009 by bellaireastro

I just watched the video of Jill Tarter’s talk about winning the 2009 TED Prize for her work on SETI. It is a must watch.

We are the products of a billion year lineage of wandering stardust. We are what happens when a primordial mixture of hydrogen and helium evolves for so long that it begins to ask where it came from.”

Exogazing Epsilon Eridanus

Posted in exoplanets, moon, observing, space, urban skies on February 7, 2009 by bellaireastro

If you head outside tonight around 7 pm CST or so to check out the nearly full moon, you should look south about the same altitude in the sky as the star Rigel in the constellation Orion and check out the celestial river Eridanus. The star Episilon Eridani has a very interesting feature that you can’t see with a hobby telescope: an exoplanet and a debris disk or two.

Courtesy of Star Tales

Courtesy of Star Tales

To find Epsilon Eridani find Rigel and Venus and then look about a third of way from Rigel to Venus.


Looking south, Bellaire TX (click to enlarge)

The three bright stars that form a small triangle are Zaurak (Gamma Eridani), Delta Eridani, and Epsilon Eridani as you look from east to west. Now you point to this sun-like star and say that is a young solar system. And while a billion years isn’t that young to humans, it’s younger than our solar system which is about 5 billion years old give or take.


Gamma Eridani, Delta Eridani, and Epsilon Eridani (click to enlarge)

So share with someone that what is up there is not just a star but another solar system. Now you can say you have been exogazing along the celestial river!

Exoplanetology: Exogazing

Posted in astro blogs, exoplanets, observing, space with tags , on February 7, 2009 by bellaireastro

Exoplanetology: Exogazing.

Hobby astronomers often work their way through observation lists such as the Messier list or a list of carbon stars. I for one could really use a list of stars with exoplanets. Just looking at the stars and knowing there are planets around them could be inspiring to students and also to me.

Fomalhaut B

HST Image of Fomalhaut B

Perhaps I should stop being lazy and just make the list myself. Either way check out the blog post above on exogazing and why it is a good idea. EDIT: Wikipedia has a list of known extra-solar planets.

One site I found from the Exoplanetology page that is worth exploring is the JPL PlanetQuest page. It has a 3D star atlas of exoplanet systems.

Fomalhaut in early November from Bellaire TX

Fomalhaut in early November from Bellaire TX