Stormin' Bob Swanson

Blogging Bob

Bright Star

It’s almost time for the autumnal equinox — that moment when the Sun’s rays are directly over the equator, and all locations on Earth experience (approximately) equal numbers of daylight and nighttime hours. In fact, the term equinox comes has Latin roots, “equi” meaning equal and “nox” meaning night.

Not only does Fall mean cooler temps and football games (Hail State!), but also that I am in another Starkville Community Theater production (2021 was “Smoke on the Mountain” and 2022 was “Sanders Family Christmas“). This time it’s the appropriately-named (since I teach astronomy and like to write songs about stars and planets) musical, “Bright Star.”

While the show doesn’t really have much to do with astronomy, the title song of the show includes the following lyrics:

Bright star keep shining for me
Shine on and see me through
Bright star keep shining for me
And one day I’ll shine for you

Lyrics by Edie Brickell

Many folks mistakenly think that the North Star (also known as Polaris) is the brightest star in the sky. It’s not even close — it actually comes in as 50th brightest if you include the Sun at the top of your list! While Polaris isn’t the brightest, it can be the most useful for someone looking for direction (much like the character, Billy Cane, in the musical). Polaris is almost coincident with the Earth’s north celestial pole — meaning that, while all other stars change position in the sky due to the Earth’s rotation, Polaris stays in the same spot in the sky. If you can find Polaris in the sky, you can always head due north.

Speaking of bright stars, don’t forget that we have a couple of solar eclipses in the coming months. There will be an annular solar eclipse on October 14 and a total solar eclipse on April 8. Keep in mind, you have to be in the “path of totality” to see these eclipses at their best (both will be partial eclipses from Mississippi locations). That said, I plan on doing some eclipse-related presentations so keep an eye on my list of upcoming performances.

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