Sunday, May 3, 2009

Seriously... Sirius?

A lot of folks might mis-identify the star Sirius as a UFO. Located in Canis Major (Big Dog) near the constellation Orion (The Hunter), Sirius (Dog Star) is a the brightest star in our night sky, having a magnitude of -1.45, only being exceeded in brightness by our own sun, moon and Venus. Sirius is twice the size of our own sun and 20 times more luminous. At 8.5 lightyears from Earth and though it is not the closest system to us, it definitely shows up as the brightest star in our field of view.
Siruius (A) is a binary, meaning it is accompanied by a second star and in this case, a "dwarf star" (B). That is what gives it the characteristic flash, twinkle and wobble, the two star's gravitational fields pulling on each other as they circle one another in a celestial dance. It is possible there is a 3rd unseen partner, asserting it's influence and causing of the wobble.
Viewing Sirius through a set of binoculars, you will most likely see what appears to be a bright white orb with flashes of red, green and yellow lights. It's still just a star, folks. Not a UFO.

That said, at 10:05 p.m. 4/30/09, there was a mighty ruckus outside my home last night. I walked to my patio door which faces south, attempting to see the jet that seemed to fly so low over my house, that the windows rattled. I could hear distinct after-burner, as the jet kicked into high gear (so to speak). By the time I reached the door, the jet was just a tiny speck of flashing lights to my southeast.
I walked back to my livingroom and heard the ditinct rumble of jet engines again, so I walked back to the door, stepped out and looked. I could make out a jet overhead, flying west/southwest and I assumed it was heading back to Dyess Airfield in Abilene. It was then that I noticed the bright "star" to my WSW, the direction the jet was headed.
I reached for my binoculars on the kitchen counter near the door, then stepped out and scanned the area. I could clearly make out the jet with it's navigational and anti-collision lights and then I saw what I thought was Sirius. I didn't think much of it but 20 minutes later, I went back to see Sirius and it wasn't there any more! The light had been at least 50 degrees up from the WSW horizon and still should have been quite visible in the clear sky but it just wasn't there. That is when I realized, that when I had viewed what I thought was Sirius, I hadn't really noticed the constellation Orion, which would have to be quite low to my west.

Was it Sirius, or was it a UFO? I don't know for sure but it usually takes more than 20 minutes, for stars to rotate that far out of sight.

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