Happy Wednesday! It’s time for our 69th week of #WUFO! For this weeks Stargazing Side quest we will be looking for the constellation Boötes!
The constellation Boötes is the herdsman of the night sky. Boötes is most famous for its brightest star, Arcturus. Arcturus is the 4th brightest star in the night sky after Sirius in Canis Major, Canopus in Carina, and Rigil Kentaurus aka Alpha Centauri.
Arcturus appears so bright to us because it’s a red giant star that’s actually pretty close to us at only 37 light-years away. Because Arcturus is so close to us compared to other stars in Boötes, it’s proper motion is quite fast! In about 4,000 years Arcturus will be at it’s closest point to us, in 150,000 years it will have moved so far away from us that it will be no longer visible to the naked eye.
One interesting feature of this constellation is a region of seemingly empty space called the Boötes Void. This is an area of space that has so few galaxies astronomer Gregory Scott Alderling has said, “If the Milky Way had been in the center of the Boötes void, we wouldn’t have known there were other galaxies until the 1960s.”
There’s some confusion over how to pronounce the name of our sidequest target for this week. Back at the astronomy club I frequented when I was wee, it was pronounced “boo OH tees” so that is what I have defaulted to over the years. Do you say it differently? Let me know in the comments!
To find Boötes tonight, look up toward the eastern-southeastern sky for the brightest star. The one you spot is probably Arcturus if you’re facing the right direction. To be sure, “follow the arc” of the Big Dipper to bright Arcturus. Remember to check out some stargazing apps like Sky Map to help you identify what you see in the sky. I use them all the time – they’re super helpful!
Let us know if you found the 4th brightest star in the night sky! Tag us @stargazingsidequest and @liminal.earth with your sky pics and stargazing/contact sesh setups so we can boost and celebrate your newly completed weekly stargazing side quest!