Lucky stars surround the Moon tonight. They have nothing to do with horoscopes or astrology, though. Instead, they're stars with lucky names -- names bestowed centuries ago by Arab skywatchers.
There are three of these "lucky" stars, and they're all members of Aquarius, the water bearer. The Moon passes through the heart of the constellation tonight.
The stars are Sadalmelik, Sadachbia, and Sadalsuud -- names that translate roughly as "lucky star of the king," "lucky star of the tents," and "luckiest star of all." No one's quite sure how these names were bestowed, though. Some "lucky" event may have happened at the time the stars were in the sky, but if so, there's no record of it.
The stars themselves are fairly unremarkable.
Sadalsuud is the brightest of the three in our sky, but Sadalmelik is actually brighter in absolute terms. In other words, if you lined up the two stars at the same distance, Sadalmelik would look brighter. It's dozens of times wider than the Sun, and several thousand times brighter. That makes it clearly visible across the 750 light-years of space -- a distance that would swallow up the light of our much-fainter Sun.
All three of the lucky stars look a bit washed out in the glare of the gibbous Moon, but they're still visible without binoculars or a telescope. They're in the southeast at nightfall, arrayed around the Moon, and they all drop from view in the wee hours of the morning.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2008
For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.