February is great month to view bright star Canopus
Arizona observers have a chance to see one of the most amazing stars in the sky during the month of February.
The second brightest star in the sky, Canopus, will put on a great show. The star never rises for observers that are north of 37 degrees north latitude.
To find this historic star, look due south around 8 p.m. Arizona time. Canopus will be the bright star near the horizon.
You will need a clear sky free of buildings and trees to see it.
Once you find this shimmering gem of a star, you are looking at a star that is some 313 light years from Earth. Thus, the light of Canopus left the star in 1704 and just got here.
Canopus is a much larger star than our sun — some 65 times the size and well over 14,000 times the luminosity.
Canopus lies in the constellation of Carina the Keel. This is part of on old constellation known as Argo Navis, the mythological ship of Jason and his Argonauts.
Canopus has always been a star of early navigators, as well as the star by which many spacecraft navigate.
The star was also made famous by science-fiction author Frank Herbert, whose “Dune” novel described a small planet, Arrakis, discovered near the celestial object was the source of spice, the most important substance in the universe.
With a spectral class of A9 II, this is a very hot and young star.
Stars like this start off with very high temperatures and then evolve into cooler stars once they consume much of the original fuel — hydrogen — that keeps them going.
These type stars are young in the sense that they have not developed a strong magnetic dynamo and they are lacking in strong X-ray emissions.
A-class stars rotate very fast and may not have developed vast planetary systems around them.
The classic A-spectral type star that is actually brighter than Canopus is the brightest star in the night sky is Sirius.
It is about 30 degrees to the upper left of Canopus in our February night skies, so look high in the south at around 9 p.m.
If you do get lucky and get to view Canopus, let this serve as an invitation to you to set your sights on planning a trip to the Southern Hemisphere to view the amazing part of the skies that you do not get to see from Arizona.
Let me assure you that this journey will afford you some of the greatest views of the Milky Way and so much more!
To print your very own star chart, click here.
To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.
Listen to Dr. Sky on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday at 3 a.m.
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