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We all enjoy making patterns of stars in the sky. Ones that have been around a long time and familiar to many are called asterisms. Orion's Belt is one, so are the Big Dipper and Summer Triangle. Last month, I wrote about the Winter Triangle, but did you know there's a Spring Triangle, too? It's just now making an appearance in the eastern sky.
It has no equal. Sirius is the brightest star in the entire sky, twice as bright as its nearest competitor, Canopus, in the southern constellation Carina. As the most brilliant, it's spectacularly easy to identify. A winter star for northern hemisphere skywatchers, it first appears in the late evening sky in November. In late February, Sirius stands two fists high in the southeastern sky in evening twilight.
DULUTH — If you tried to start a car that's been sitting in a garage for a couple years, you'd have to clean and replace parts, then hope. But a set of thrusters aboard the Voyager 1 spacecraft successfully fired up after 37 years in the deep chill of interstellar space. In that same time interval, I've gone through six cars. Voyager's one mean machine!
DULUTH — Planets, planets everywhere, and here and there an Earth. Astronomers announced the discovery this week of a new, temperate Earth-sized planet only 11 light-years away orbiting the star Ross 128 in the constellation Virgo. After Proxima b, the planet circling Proxima Centauri in the Alpha Centauri triple star system, it's the closest, potentially life-friendly planet found.
DULUTH — The Hubble Space Telescope is always up to something. Now, a German-led group of astronomers have observed a one-of-a-kind object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Scratch that. Two-of-one-kind: a pair of asteroids orbiting each other that show comet-like features including a bright coma and a long tail. It's the first known binary asteroid also classified as a main-belt comet. The team's research was published in the journal Nature recently.