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Mirfak is the brightest star in Perseus

Look northeast on December evenings for the sleek form of the constellation Perseus and its vibrant star Mirfak.

Mirfak, the brightest star within the constellation Perseus, lies excessive within the east on December evenings. It makes an amazing companion to the sky’s most celebrated eclipsing binary star, Algol, the Demon Star. The two stars are about 10 degrees, or a fist-width, aside in Perseus. As you watch the variable star Algol dip after which regain brightness, evaluate it to the extra fixed Mirfak. You’ll quickly see why Algol appeared like a ghoul as compared.

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Star field; Cassiopeia marked, with arrow pointing to two small close-together smudges.
While you’re taking a look at Perseus, remember to scan along with your binoculars for the Double Cluster. The constellation Cassiopeia may also help you discover it. The Double Cluster practically marks the radiant of the Perseid meteor bathe. Image through madmiked/ Flickr.

How to search out Mirfak

The title Mirfak comes from Arabic and means the Elbow of the Pleiades. Mirfak can also be known as Alpha Persei. In truth, the constellation Perseus lies due north of the Pleiades star cluster, additionally known as the Seven Sisters. In different phrases, you could find Mirfak and Perseus between the Pleiades cluster and Polaris, the North Star.

Dense star field with one very bright star, Mirfak, in middle with rays coming out of it.
Starfield centered on vibrant Mirfak in Perseus. Image through Fred Espenak/ astropixels.com.

You also can take a extra direct path to Mirfak, if you happen to’re aware of the M or W-shaped constellation Cassiopeia the Queen. Draw an imaginary line by the Cassiopeia stars Navi (Gamma Cassiopeiae) and Ruchbah to leap over to Mirfak.

Mirfak is the lone star of Perseus that stands out in reasonably light-polluted skies, as its brilliance matches that of the celebrities of the well-known Big Dipper.

Science of Alpha Persei

At a distance of about 600 light-years, Mirfak lies a lot farther than the Big Dipper stars, so this star must be intrinsically very luminous to shine so brightly in our sky. If Mirfak stood on the sun’s distance from Earth, its disk would cowl a number of thousand occasions extra sky. Moreover, Mirfak would shine hundreds of occasions extra brightly than our sun.

On a dark night, you may discern a faint array of stars clustering round Mirfak, a bejeweled realm of the heavens that glitters all of the extra in binoculars. This assemblage of stars is named the Alpha Persei Moving Group (Melotte 20), of which Mirfak is probably the most outstanding member. Although some really feel that this stellar grouping is just too dispersed to be known as a star cluster, these stars nonetheless transfer in the identical normal route by space and had been born from the identical cloud of gasoline and dust some 30 to 50 million years in the past.

Sixteen randomly scattered bright stars fairly close together.
The Alpha Persei Moving Cluster (Melotte 20). Mirfak is probably the most outstanding member of this grouping of stars. Image through Wikimedia Commons.

Bottom line: Mirfak is the brightest star within the constellation Perseus and will be noticed even from light-polluted areas. This star is a member of the Alpha Persei Moving Cluster.

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