Thursday 16 May 2013

Chi Cygni by Cider Light

Conditions were really nippy and clear last night, so armed with a fortifying drink, I took myself outside with the 10x50s to take advantage of the clear skies.

Got all the usual suspects I've been observing lately - the easy globulars Messier 3, 5, 13, and 92 and had a failed attempt to confirm Messier 56 in Lyra. Ditto the elusive Ophicuchus globulars, which I intend to make a study of locating. Messier 51 I seem to be able to pick out, but Messier 81, Bode's galaxy, is a real eye tease for me. Thought I saw it clearly last week, last night, my eyes were playing wild tricks on me and I was seeing it in three different places.

After taking in the milky way and the open clusters in Cygnus and Lacerta, and again straining my eyes out of my head to see Messier 71 in Sagitta, I took in a lovely red star in Cygnus, not far from Albireo. This was Chi Cygni, a long period variable that varies from 4th mag to 14th in the space of 14 months or so, and has a diameter over 300 times greater than that of the sun! It's 600 light years away, so no matter how dim it might appear to our eyes, at peak it is still over 7000 times more lumininous than the sun.

I love red stars, as any readers of the astro entries of this blog will know, and Chi Cygni is not far off the hot coal glory of the Garnet Star. Soon it will drop back out of binocular visibility, let alone naked eye, to the point when you'll need a 12 inch reflector to see it. That's quite a swing!

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