July 27, 2017

Astro-Challenge: Monitoring Luyten’s Flare Star.

Artist’s conception of a flare star in action.

(Credit: NASA).

It’s ironic that the most common type of star also lies hidden from view in the night sky.  Our Sun and others like it make up a paltry ~20% of the fusion-burning stellar engines in the Milky Way; the vast majority of stars are red dwarfs with less than %50 the mass of our Sun. And although Alpha Centauri’s C companion Proxima lies just over 4 light years distant, not a single red dwarf is visible to the naked eye. We’ve written about other red dwarfs in the range of a backyard telescope, such as Groombridge 34 & Omicron Eridani; this week, we’d like to turn your attention to a curious specimen in the constellation Cetus.

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Review: Burnham’s Celestial Handbook.

A three volume classic! (Photo by Author).

A three volume classic! (Photo by Author).

A few decades back, I mentioned to a friend at a local planetarium of my enduring interest in astronomy. “Surely, then, “ he said pulling out a three volume set, “you have these…” I did not at the time, but I had indeed heard the legends. The books were Burnham’s Celestial Handbook, a three volume compendium on observational astronomy. A few weeks back we did a piece on the man, Robert Burnham Jr. and his tempestuous life; now I’d like to break with tradition a bit a provide a review of this indispensable astronomical classic. [Read more...]

Searching for Robert Burnham.

One of the very few existing pictures of Robert Burnham Jr. (Credit: The Robert burnham Jr. Memorial Project).

One of the very few existing pictures of Robert Burnham Jr. (Credit: The Robert burnham Jr. Memorial Project).

Sometimes, the quietest minds among us also have the most to share with the world.

Last month, on a warm summer’s day in August, the East Valley Astronomy Club, in connection with the Robert Burnham Jr. Memorial Fund, honored a man with the dedication of a small plaque placed on the Pluto walk at the Lowell Observatory. That man is probably the most unknown, but influential amateur astronomer of the 20th century; Robert Burnham Jr. a man that but for a singular colossal work, might have passed on into total obscurity. The book is Burnham’s Celestial Handbook, a three volume guide to the wonders of the night sky. [Read more...]