Big Dipper keeps getting bigger

Big Dipper keeps getting bigger
Date:30 April 2010 Tags:

Human beings have been staring at the constellation ursa major, which contains the star group commonly called the big dipper, for thousands of years, but it still holds a few secrets for astronomers. With the naked eye, ancient sky watchers in arabia could see that one of the dipper’s seven stars, mizar, has a companion called alcor. Over the centuries, improving telescopes revealed more stars in the cluster. Late last year, two independent teams of astronomers detected a sixth star near mizar in the middle of the constellation’s handle, bringing the total number of stars in the big dipper to 12.

Mizaar star count

2 stars : Ancient skywatchers use the detection of Mizar and Alcor as an eye test. In 2008, an ophthalmologist’s paper finds that these results correlate to the modern Snellen visual accuracy tests.

3 stars: Benedetto Castelli finds the binary star Mizar B with a telescope owned by his mentor, Galileo Galilei.

4 stars: Astronomers studying shifts in the wavelength of starlight find that Mizar A is also a binary star.

5 stars: Another binary star is found orbiting Mizar B, making the cluster the first known quintuple star system.

6 stars: Planet hunters find a star, Alcor B, using a telescope with a mirror that flexes to compensate for the effects of Earth’s atmosphere.

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