Triangulum Australe - the southern triangle

triangleladyThere's a barely noticed constellation down under called Triangulum Australe, the southern triangle. Connecting three dots to make a triangle is pretty much the minimum effort for making a star group.

The first person to go to all that effort was an Italian named Amerigo Vespucci in the early 1500's. He's also the guy that figured out Columbus hadn't actually found some part of Asia, and that there was a whole new continent in between. That's why they named it America. I don't know why they didn't name it Vespuccia.
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The brightest of the three stars is Alpha, an orange beauty which would stretch all the way out to the orbit of Venus if it were somehow allowed to replace our sun. It would also appear about 5,500 times brighter than our sun in which case you might as well live in Phoenix. It's proper name is Atria which has no meaning. It's just a less fussy way of saying Alpha Triangulum Australe and there's nothing funny about that.
mathkitty
The second brightest star is Beta, which is a binary system except that it's not. The dim companion is probably just photo-bombing the shot but then as you know that's what our dimmer companions sometimes do.

cocopuffmathThe third member, Gamma, is drawing very little attention to itself other than pouring out massive amounts of heat and light in all directions.

The fourth star in the triangle, Kappa, is yellow and must be ignored for trigonomic integrity.

The constellation includes several cepheid variable stars. These are "standard candles" which means not only are their parts interchangable, but we know how far they are away from us. We know this thanks to Henrietta Leavitt who helped us discover just how big the universe is, and how insignificant and small and unnoticed we might feel, especially if we are a female scientist in the 19th century.

ESO_69-6_HSTIf you are truly desperate for something more to look at while cruising through the deeper sky here, there is ESO 69-6. It's a pair of rat-tail galaxies. These two cosmic dance partners are ripping each other's clothes off as if no one is watching.

Carpe Noctem.
Skywise Unlimited

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Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on August 21, 2016 at 12:31pm

To the Aboriginal peoples of Australia the Skyworld was a mirror of the Earth and to them the Milky Way is a river.

Comment by SteveInCO on August 21, 2016 at 12:45pm

Kappa?  The chart shows an Epsilon that might make sense in that context.

The phenomenon of a star looking like a binary in a scope, when it's really two stars that are utterly unconnected to each other (other than both being in this part of the galaxy) just along the same line of sight at greatly different distances, is not uncommon, and the term is called an "optical double," to distinguish it from a binary star.  "Double star" refers to both optical doubles and binary stars; basically anything that looks like a close pair of stars.  By the way many binaries are so close you can't see the separate stars in a telescope, they have to be inferred by looking at the stars' spectra.

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on August 21, 2016 at 2:45pm

Is that what is called "gravitational lensing"? 

Comment by SteveInCO on August 21, 2016 at 8:47pm

Nothing to do with it.

It's just two stars that happen to be in almost exactly the same direction from here appearing as though they might be a binary star.  Until you see them orbiting each other (we can watch that happen over decades), or measure their distances, it's hard to tell, certainly you and I just looking through a telescope one night cannot.

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on August 22, 2016 at 5:28pm

Thanks - I was thinking (or not thinking) of galaxies.

Comment by SteveInCO on August 23, 2016 at 10:48am

Stars can actually do gravitiational lensing, sometimes one will pass directly in front of another and cause it it (apparently) brighten.  But it's just a totally different thing from the question of an optical double versus a binary star, like introducing the topic of cheese into a conversation about what day of the week it is.

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