December 13, 2009 Leave a comment
In ancient times people with really good eyesight could look at the Big Dipper at night and see that one of the brightest stars in the handle was actually two stars. The two stars, Mizar and Alcor, were the first binary stars, a pair of stars that orbit each other, ever known. This knowledge of stars goes back many thousands of years. It is known that the city of Babylon had what could loosely be considered astronomers in its halcyon days.
Since that early time men have built mighty telescopes and explored and plotted the universe and discovered many things about our humongous worlds within worlds within worlds. These modern telescopes have since found that Mizar is itself a pair of binary’s, revealing what was once thought to be a single star is actually four stars orbiting each other. Many consider Alcor a fifth member of the system, in orbit far away from the Mizar quadruplet.
Now two astronomers at the University of Rochester have made a surprise discovery; Alcor is actually two stars gravitationally bound to the Mizar system making the whole group a sextuplet. This makes the Mizar-Alcor sextuplet the second nearest such system known. Considering that Alcor is one of the most studied stars in the sky makes the discovery all the more surprising.
Can you imagine living on a world close to these stars and looking up into the sky. What a wonderful sight that would be.
You can read the whole story HERE at Science Daily
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