Beta Comae

StarDate: March 28, 2009

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Our Sun is a star. But it's so close and bright that it sure doesn't look like the stars that twinkle through the night sky. And it's hard to find stars that resemble the Sun because Sun-like stars aren't all that bright, so they have to be pretty close for us to see them at all.

One star that fits the bill perfectly is Beta Coma Berenices -- Beta Comae for short. It's 30 light-years away, and it's quite similar to the Sun. It has the same spectral type as the Sun -- class G -- which means that its surface temperature is nearly the same. And stars with the same temperature also have the same color -- in this case, yellow. And it's also about the same brightness as the Sun.

Also like the Sun, Beta Comae is a main-sequence star, which means that it generates energy by "fusing" together hydrogen to make helium in its core.

Unfortunately, because it's so much like the Sun, and because it's 30 light-years away, Beta Comae isn't much of a spectacle. But you can still see it without using binoculars or a telescope. All you need is a star chart and a dark night sky. Then you can find this star in the constellation Coma Berenices, which is south of the handle of the Big Dipper.

The star is so much like the Sun that it could be supporting a life-bearing planet like Earth. And who knows? Maybe someone up there is looking our way -- to get an idea of how their sun appears when viewed from afar.

Tomorrow: paying a call on a neighbor.

Script by Ken Croswell, Copyright 2009

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