Ancient Astronomers Looking at Algol for Signs

Algol is called the Demon Star
Algol is called the Demon Star

Of gods in the heavens

“Blink, blink, Demon Star. We know not what you are”

Ancient Astronomy –

Tonight the human journey to the beginning of space and time travels 93 light years to the constellation Perseus, to check out Algol, a bright blue beacon in the sky astronomers in Egypt and China studied extensively for centuries. Called the Demon Star by some stargazers, this bright blue star was believed by ancient Greeks to represent the blinking eye of Gorgon the Medusa, held high in the hands of Perseus the Hero. This is thought to be the case due to periodic changes in the Demon Star that occur every few days. The word Algol comes from the Arabic for al-Ghul – the ghoul.

Algol is thought to be feasting on the matter of another star
Algol is thought to be feasting on the matter of another star

Ancient astronomers in Egypt and China studied Algol

Modern astronomers studying Algol believe the Demon Star has a macabre habit to match its moniker. You see Algol’s a multiple star system composed of one star in the act of consuming the outer layers of the other. According to theory, two such stars in close proximity should be interacting

Modern astronomers have been studying Algol’s periodic blinking every few days, since sometime in the 17th century. In 1783, a young astronomer called John Goodricke sent a letter to the Royal Society of London suggesting this blinking could be due to a darker body passing in front of a star. It wasn’t until 1881 that University of Harvard astronomer Edward Dickering confirmed Algol has more than one sun. In fact, around 1912 a team of astronomers in Helsinki determined Algol has a brilliant blue star and bloated red star orbiting periodically close together, with a third star orbiting the pair at a distance.

John Goodricke suggested the blinking of Algol could be due to another star passing in front of the Demon Star
John Goodricke suggested the blinking of Algol could be due to another star passing in front of the Demon Star

Modern astronomers studied the Demon Star

The periodic blinking of the Demon Star occurs when the red bloated star passes in front of the blue star, merging the pair into a single point of light, which accounts for Algol turning blood red, before turning blue again around 10 hours later.

Algol is blue before turning blood red
Algol turns blood red, before appearing blue again

Click this link to watch a YouTube documentary on Algol. The documentary is a mix of different videos on the dying star, which the site has put into one show. Pretty cool stuff.

Algol: The Last Minutes of a Dying Star

Read about NASA’s Messenger spacecraft and its mission to Mercury

Have you heard about the recent meteorite that exploded near the Ural Mountains

Read about the supernova astronomers are studying looking for a black hole they think was created during the explosion

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11 thoughts on “Ancient Astronomers Looking at Algol for Signs

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