February Stars

VenusNo school today, so I could stay up and watch Algol reach minimum light last evening. The time was right, the skies were clear, no moon, perfect.
Algol is a star in Perseus; it represents one of the eyes in the decapitated head of the Gorgon Medusa. It’s also called Beta Persei and Gorgonea Prima. It is a binary star, and the small brighter companion is eclipsed on a regular basis by its large dimmer companion. This causes a drop in brightness of over a magnitude; suggesting for the ancients the still-dangerous eye of the Medusa. This occurs about every 2.8 days.
Algol is Arabic, al-gul, “the ghoul.” It’s the origin of the English word “ghoul” and Algol is reputed to be the evillest star in the sky. But last night I watched it dim rapidly and realized it was just a binary star, and that I was lucky enough to be in the shadow of a faraway eclipse. The mythology made me feel closer to many generations who have looked upward in wonder; making me feel not spooky but very safe.
Other things on last night’s tour of the heavens… M44 (the Beehive Cluster) and faint M67, both in Cancer. Iota Cancri, a pretty binary, one yellow-white and the other bright blue. The Double Cluster near Perseus–in the next-outer arm of our galaxy from us. Kemble’s Cascade and NGC1502, both in Camelopardalis. Tonight will try for a faint glimpse of comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova. IF my other work is finished by then!

About Jon

Keyboard artist, sacred musician, teacher, writer, working in New York City and State. Many interests include music theory and history, literature, astronomy, genealogy, philosophy and theology, gardening, and good food.
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