February 8, 2012

More Than Just a Handle

From near the top of the Malahat, the view is spectacular, day or night. Here, I am looking northeast from the north end of the scenic route. 

Very obvious in the frame is the "Big Dipper". The second star in on the handle you can just see the Mizar / Alcor star system. I had thought that I explained this system before, but looking back, I guess I have not.

Mizar is the name given to the second star in the handle of the big dipper. Just visible to those with good eyes is a second star right next to it. This star is called Alcor. The two stars orbit around each-other over the course of thousands of years. 

If you take a look at the two stars with a telescope, you can see that Mizar itself is actually two separate stars going around each other. So now we have Mizar A, Mizar B, and Alcor. 

If you do some fancy spectroscopy stuff you can figure out that Mizar A is actually two stars as well, Mizar Aa and Ab. Mizar B is actually two as well, as is Alcor. So really, the second star in the handle of the big dipper is Mizar Aa, Mizar Ab, Mizar Ba, Mizar Bb, Alcor A, and Alcor B. Pretty confusing stuff eh? It is incredible to picture all those stars whirring around eachother. It is one of my favorite star systems.


  1. I am going to get a tattoo of it on my ankle some day :)

  2. That is brilliant! That will look good.