The Archer's Bow

StarDate: September 26, 2009

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The constellation Sagittarius represents a centaur holding a bow and arrow. But you need a really good imagination to see such a complicated picture. Most of us see a much simpler pattern: eight fairly bright stars that form a teapot. And if you've never seen it before, this evening's a good time to look, because it stretches below the Moon.

One part of the classical picture that's fairly easy to see is the bow. The star that represents the top of the bow is to the lower right of the Moon at nightfall, at the top of the teapot. The bottom of the bow is at the bottom right of the teapot. And a star that's about halfway between them represents the middle of the bow.

The stars are named Kaus Borealis, Kaus Media, and Kaus Australis -- a combination of Arabic and Latin meaning the northern, middle, and southern bow.

Kaus Australis -- the southern end of the bow -- is the brightest star in the whole constellation. It's a giant -- a star that's puffed up as it nears the end of its life. It's many times bigger than the Sun, and almost 400 times brighter. That makes it quite easy to see even though it's about 145 light-years away.

The bow's other stars are giants, too. The one in the middle is actually the most impressive of the lot. It's bigger and brighter than the others, but farther away.

So follow the arch of these three giants to see the archer's ancient bow. As for the rest of him -- well, you'll have to use your imagination.

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2009

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