July 2022
The Backyard Astronomer
Adam England

The Many Wonders of Boötes

In the early summer months, the constellation moves to the western sky.  Adjacent the Big Dipper, some Ancient Greek Mythology tells of how Boötes invented the plough and was rewarded with a place in the heavens for this history-altering advancement.  Keeping in line with feeding the masses, the Yup’ik language – second most widely spoken Native American language after Navajo - of the Eskimo-Aleut people refers to this same grouping of stars as Taluyaq, literally translated as “fish-trap” for the funnel shape of the stars.  Many different Chinese constellations have focused around Arcturus, the brightest star in Boötes and in the Northern hemisphere, which was so important in their mythology that it’s position in the sky marked the beginning of the lunar calendar.

Boötes is home to a plethora of deep sky objects, many of which represent the earliest discoveries after the invention of the telescope.  The easiest star to locate first is the bright orange-giant Arcturus.  Just under 37 light years distant, 25 times larger than our sun and 170 times as luminous, it should be a quick task.  The next brightest star is Izar, which viewed with a scope of diameter 3” or larger reveals a beautiful multi-colored double star.  Approximately the same distance but in the opposite direction of Izar is magnitude 11 galaxy Caldwell 45.  Six degrees to the Southeast of Arcturus is Pi Bootis, another double star visible to the naked eye.  Remember, you can easily approximate degrees in the sky with your hand at arm’s length – a fingertip is about 1 degree, three fingers about 5 degrees, and a clenched fist is about 10 degrees.

If you would like to learn more about the sky, telescopes, or socialize with other amateur astronomers, visit us at prescottastronomyclub.org or Facebook @PrescottAstronomyClub to find the next star party, Star Talk, or event.

Adam England is the owner of Manzanita Financial and moonlights as an amateur astronomer, writer, and interplanetary conquest consultant. Follow his rants and exploits on Twitter @AZSalesman or at Facebook.com/insuredbyadam.