Thanks to its position in the zodiac, not to mention a hit Broadway song, Aquarius, the water bearer, is one of the most famous constellations. But few people have actually seen it because it's so faint. Still, one star in Aquarius has a link to the best-known star pattern of all: the Big Dipper.
Delta Aquarii is a white star that's a hundred times brighter than the Sun. Five of the seven bright stars that make up the Big Dipper are the same type of star as Delta Aquarii. But Delta Aquarii is 160 light-years from Earth -- about twice as far as those five stars in the Big Dipper. And Delta Aquarii is a southern star, while the Big Dipper is in the north.
Nevertheless, astronomers think Delta Aquarii was born from the same giant cloud of gas and dust that gave birth to the five white stars in the Big Dipper. That's because Delta Aquarii moves in the same direction as they do. Although Delta Aquarii has parted company with its siblings, it still shares the same motion through the galaxy.
Delta Aquarii has another claim to fame. It's near the radiant of a meteor shower that bears its name. The Delta Aquarid shower occurs every summer.
Delta Aquarii is visible to the unaided eye, shining in the south this evening. It's as bright as the faintest of the stars that make up the Big Dipper. But because Aquarius itself is so faint, you'll need a star chart to tell you which star is Delta Aquarii -- the one with a link to the Big Dipper.
Script by Ken Croswell, Copyright 2008
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