Mira at max­i­mum

WHEN: Last week of Novem­ber

Sky at Night Magazine - - THE SKY GUIDE -

The con­stel­la­tion of Ce­tus rep­re­sents a Whale or Sea Mon­ster in mythol­ogy. It’s a large, sprawl­ing col­lec­tion of stars de­fined by mag. +2.0 Deneb Kaitos (Beta (`) Ceti) to the west and the ir­reg­u­lar pen­tag­o­nal pat­tern form­ing the crea­ture’s head to the east. Mag. +2.5 or­ange Menkar (Al­pha (_) Ceti) is one of the stars in the pen­tagon.

The bot­tom of the head is marked by mag. +3.5 Kaf­faljidhma (Gamma (a) Ceti) which to­gether with mag. +4.1 Delta (b) Ceti form the neck. A line from Delta to mag. +3.7 Baten Kaitos (Zeta

(c) Ceti) de­fines the crea­ture’s back. The vari­able star Mira (Omicron (k) Ceti) some­times ap­pears along the back. Also known as ‘Won­der­ful’, Mira holds the record for hav­ing the largest bright­ness range of any vari­able star vis­i­ble to the naked eye at peak.

From late Novem­ber into De­cem­ber, Mira should be vis­i­ble to the naked eye as a tan­gi­ble ad­di­tion to Ce­tus. A typ­i­cal max­i­mum has it as bright as mag. +3.5. Records ex­ist of it as bright as mag. +2.0, ri­valling the bright­est star in Ce­tus. Over a pe­riod of 332 days it drops from its easy naked-eye max­i­mum to

around 9th mag­ni­tude at min­i­mum. At such times,

you’ll need a tele­scope to see the star clearly.

For naked-eye ob­servers, Mira is only part of Ce­tus some of the time

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