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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/544

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

The little constellations of Lepus and Columba, below Orion, need not detain us long. You will find in them some pretty combinations of stars. In Lepus is the celebrated "Crimson Star," which has been described as resembling a drop of blood in color—a truly marvelous hue for a sun—but, as it is never brighter than the sixth magnitude, and from that varies down to the ninth, we could hardly hope to see its color well with an opera-glass. Besides, the observer would have difficulty in finding it.

We will now turn to the constellation of Canis Major, represented in Map No. 3. Although, as a constellation, it is not to be compared with the brilliant Orion, yet, on account of the unrivaled magnificence of its chief star, Canis Major presents almost as attractive a scene as its more extensive rival. Everybody has heard of Sirius, or the Dog-Star, and everybody must have seen it flashing and scintillating so splendidly in the winter heavens, that to call it a first-magnitude star does it injustice, since no other star of that magnitude is at all comparable with it. Sirius, in fact, stands in a class by itself as the brightest star in the sky. Its light is white with a shade of green which requires close watching to be detected. When it is near the horizon, or when the atmosphere is very unsteady, Sirius flashes prismatic colors like a great diamond. The question has been much discussed as to whether Sirius was not formerly a red star. It is described as red by several ancient authors, but it seems to be pretty well established that these descriptions are most of them due to a blunder made by Cicero in his translation of the astronomical poem of Aratus. It is PSM V32 D540 Delta orionis and its neighbors.jpgDelta Orionis and its Neighbors. not impossible, though it is highly improbable, that Sirius has changed color. Your eyes will be fairly dazzled when you turn your glass upon this splendid star. By close attention you will be able to perceive a number of faint stars, mere points by comparison, in the immediate neighborhood of Sirius. There are many interesting objects in the constellation. The star marked Nu (ν) in the map, is really triple, as the smallest glass will show. Look next at the star-group 41 M. The cloud of minute stars of which it is composed can be very well seen with a field-glass or a powerful opera-glass. The star 22 is of a very ruddy color that contrasts beautifully with the light of Epsilon (ε), which can be seen in the same field of view with an opera-glass.