88 Constellations in 88 Words Over 88 Days

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[A sample of the first six constellations]

Over 88 consecutive days, CCSU astronomy professor Kris Larsen is challenging herself to describe one of the 88 constellations in exactly 88 words. Today is Day 30, and the featured constellation is Crux, the southern cross. Catch up on the videos of the previous 29 constellations, and keep up on the remaining 58, here.

What’s up with Betelgeuse?

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One of the most famous and easily recognizable constellations in the night sky, Orion is already on most stargazers’ radar. But recently, one of its brightest stars, Betelgeuse, has become even more famous by simply becoming less bright.

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A red supergiant star so large it would completely fill the inner solar system if we put it at the sun’s location, Betelgeuse is approaching the end of its lifespan, and will literally go out with a “bang,” exploding as a supernova at some point in the 100,000 years – or sooner! At a distance of about 600 light years, Betelgeuse is far too distant to cause any damage to our cosmic neighborhood, but when it does explode, it could appear bright enough to see during the day!

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Like most stars of its class, Betelgeuse has natural variations in brightness, but as you can see from the graph above (a light curve plotting brightness over time), recently the star has become unusually dim (although still easily visible from even light polluted skies). Does this necessarily mean that Betelgeuse is getting ready to blow? Probably not, but it is still interesting to astronomers. If you would like to join in the international campaign by the AAVSO (American Association of Variable Star Observers) to closely monitor Betelgeuse’s latest hi-jinks, you can learn how to observe variable stars using their 10-star tutorial [https://www.aavso.org/10-star-training]. One word of warning – Betelgeuse is very red, so make sure you make quick glances between it and your comparison stars to avoid the Purkinje effect (an optical effect in which red stars look brighter if you stare at them).

– Kristine Larsen, Past President, AAVSO

Free Public Observing Sessions – Run by CCSU Students!

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The students of AST 278 Observational Astronomy invite YOU to take part in their capstone project for the course, a series of FREE public observing sessions on the roof of Copernicus Hall at CCSU. On Monday through Thursday, December 2-5, observe the Andromeda Galaxy, the moon, and other celestial wonders through a variety of instruments from 7:30 – 9 PM each night if skies are clear. To check if weather conditions are conducive to observing on any particular night, call 860-832-2938 after 5 PM.

Partnering with Partners in Science

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For over 25 years, astronomy faculty at CCSU have worked with the Partners in Science Program to bring 3 hour Saturday science workshops to local 7th graders. This past Saturday students from Meriden and Southington learned about light, telescopes, stars, and planets, including making models of Saturn and of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon. The event ended with a planetarium demonstration. We look forward to the spring workshops!

Triple Honor for Astronomy Professor

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At the recent American Association of Variable Stars Observers annual meeting CCSU astronomy professor Dr. Kristine Larsen received three separate honors. Most important was her receiving the Director’s Award of the AAVSO; the citation reads in part,

She is a longtime member, exceptional educator, recognized researcher and prolific night time and day time observer. Not only is she a loyal friend of the AAVSO, she is also a vocal advocate of inclusion and diversity in science, working towards providing equal opportunities to all, in research and education.

In addition to this prestigious honor, Dr. Larsen completed her term as Past President at this meeting and was elected Secretary of the Board of the AAVSO.

Finally, it was announced that Dr. Larsen, who has served as an Assistant Editor of the Astronomical League’s magazine Reflector for the past six years, will now serve as Editor, effective immediately.