Looking Up: Nerd Star On The Left

Sep 26, 2016

From Urania's Mirror, or a view of the heavens, engraved by Sidney Hall, 1824.
Credit Firkin / openclipart

This week on Looking Up we take a peak at the Atik. 

I know you won’t believe this, but every now and then astronomers can come off as a tiny bit nerdy. And today’s edition of Looking Up lets us delve into the truly nerdy, at a couple of levels.

Because today I want to talk to you about the very interesting star named Atik. 

The first nerdy wonder is the name itself. Atik translates as “the shoulder of the Pleiades.” While Atik itself lies in the constellation Perseus, it’s location there, just under the Pleiades, suggested to ancient sky watchers that it was supporting that beautiful star cluster.

Atik is a fairly distant star, nearly 1500 light years, and its brightness is diminished by a lot of the dust and dirt we find in interstellar space. And it’s actually a binary system, with two very bright stars very close to each other. They whip around each other every 4 ½ days.

One of the stars is a giant, with the core that is either dead or mostly dead. The other is a very bright smaller star. But both are much larger than our Sun, with one 10 times bigger and the other 7. The combined light of the two stars is a very impressive 82,000 times brighter than our own Sun.

And the other reason Atik is a nerdy star? Well, I mentioned it was in the constellation in Perseus. But I didn’t mention its official stellar or scientific name. It’s the 15th name star Perseus, and in keeping with the system of naming stars in order of brightness starting with Alpha, Atik comes with a specific Greek letter. And if you’re nerdy enough to have been a fan of the science fiction cartoon Futurama, you may recognize this star as the home world of Emperor Lrr. Yup, Atik’s real name is Omicron Persei, where, if it exists, Omicron Persei 8 will be found. If you don’t get that nerd reference, it’s probably a good thing. It means you have a life.

If you’d like to take a closer look at Atik, or any of the other wonderful and amazing things in the sky, please visit CSASTRO.org for a link to information on our monthly meetings and our free public star parties! 

This is Hal Bidlack for the Colorado Springs Astronomical Society, telling you to keep looking up, Southern Colorado!