2 results for tag: capella

Capella: four stars that appear to be one

As I mentioned in the February 1st issue article about the constellation Auriga the Charioteer, the name Capella means “female goat” or “little female goat” in Latin. Like many objects visible to us in the night sky, Capella is not just a single star. It consists of two binary pairs. A binary pair is two stars revolving around a common center, somewhat like two ice skaters holding hands while they spin.

Look for Auriga on February 21

In the deep midwinter, gaze overhead in the middle latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere in the late evening and you will see the constellation we call Auriga the Charioteer. The six brightest stars can form either an irregular hexagon, or an irregular pentagon with one outlier star. The brightest, Capella, lies to the northeast. Capella is actually a combination of two binary systems. What we see as one star is a close association of one of these binaries, two bright yellow stars that revolve around a common center. These are only about 43 light-years away from Earth. Their proximity plus their size and temperature, gives the visible “Capella” a ...