Have you ever wondered which are the brightest stars in our night sky and what makes these stars so bright? We have compiled a list just for you – read on to find out which stars are the shiniest and learn the science behind star luminosity.
What Determines a Star’s Brightness?
First of all, we want to understand what makes some stars brighter than others. You may have thought, obviously the closer they are the brighter they are, and you are completely correct. However, there are other factors that contribute to our shiny little friend’s visibility in the night sky. These include a star’s age and size. Larger stars have shorter life spans and therefore burn out much faster, whereas smaller stars, such as our Sun, can live for several billion years until they peacefully die out, pass through a planetary nebula stage to become white dwarfs and lastly turn into brown dwarfs. So if a star is super bright, it must be in its peak life cycle and, of course, relatively close to our Earth. So who takes the first place in our starry night sky?
Which is the Brightest Star in Our Night Sky?
The shiniest star in the sky at night is a smaller star most commonly known as Sirius or the Dog Star, however, its official name is Alpha Canis Majoris for it is located in the constellation of Canis Major (literally meaning ”Big Dog” in Latin). The name Sirius is derived from the Greek word Seirios which translates to ”glowing” or ”scorching” – a name that rightfully suits this star since it is the most luminous of them all. Only the full moon, a few planets and perhaps the International Space Station shine brighter than this star in the night sky. Sirius is located at a magnitude of -1.46 and is located – Right ascension: 6 hours 45 minutes 8.9 seconds, Declination: -16 degrees 42 minutes 58 seconds. You can easily spot the Dog Star in the Northern Hemisphere’s winter sky thanks to it being comparatively close to Earth as opposed to other stars (8.6 light-years away) and due to its mass which, according to NASA, is twice that of our Sun’s mass. You can also see Sirius from the Southern Hemisphere because it forms part of the celestial equator.
Did You Know Sirius Has a Twin?
Yes, Sirius is part of what we call a Binary star system which consists of Sirius A (our beloved shiny star) and its sibling Sirius B. Scientists first discovered that Sirius had a twin in 1862 because this star is 10,000 times dimmer than Sirius A and it cannot be seen at all by the naked eye – even in the darkest sites. Sirius B is in its final life stages and it won’t be long before it turns into a brown dwarf. But enough about Sirius, what are the other brightest stars in our night sky?
The Top 10 Brightest Stars At Night
Now, let’s see which are the shiniest stars in our beautiful starry night sky.
1. Sirius A (Alpha Canis Majoris)
Our number one star on the list. As mentioned before, this star is part of the constellation Canis Major with an apparent magnitude of -1.5 and is 8.6 light-years away from Earth. You can spot this star from anywhere on our planet.
2. Canopus (Alpha Carinae)
This star is named after the mythological character Canopus who was a navigator for Menelaus, king of Sparta. It’s part of the constellation Carina and located at a magnitude of -0.72, 309. It is 310 light-years away from our Sun and can be seen from the Northern Hemisphere.
3. Rigil Kentaurus (Alpha Centauri)
At only 4.36 light-years from Earth, this star is part of the closest star system to our Solar System and consists of three stars with Rigil Kentaurus being the brightest. It is part of the constellation Centaurus with an apparent magnitude of -0.29. It is best spotted from the Southern Hemisphere.
4. Arcturus (Alpha Bootis)
The brightest star in the northern celestial hemisphere. This star is part of the constellation Bootes with an apparent magnitude of -0.04 and is about 37 light-years away from Earth. Its name originates from Greek and means ”Bear Watcher” or ”Guardian of the Bear” due it’s proximity to the Ursa Major (Big Bear). Fun fact, this star is actually a red giant.
5. Vega (Alpha Lyrae)
The name Vega comes from Arabic and literally means falling vulture. This is the most luminous star in the Lyra constellation with an apparent magnitude of +0.03, and it is relatively close, only 25.5 light-years away from Earth. Vega is visible from the Northern Hemisphere.
6. Capella (Alpha Aurigae)
Cappella or the Goat Star is the shiniest star in the Auriga constellation with an apparent magnitude of +0.08, 42 light-years away from Earth. This star is also best spotted from the Northern Hemisphere.
7. Rigel (Beta Orionis)
The brightest star in the constellation Orion, Rigel (from Arabic – ‘the left leg of the giant’) has an apparent magnitude of +0.18 and although it is 860 light-years away from Earth, it shines so bright because it’s a Blue giant star. It can be seen from the Southern Hemisphere.
8. Procyon (Alpha Canis Minoris)
Procyon, just like Sirius, is also part of a binary star system with its twin being a dwarf. It is located in the Canis Minor constellation with an apparent magnitude of +0.34 and at a distance of 11.46 light-years away from Earth. This star is visible from the Northern Hemisphere.
9. Achernar (Alpha Eridani)
Its name Achernar is derived from Arabic and means ”The End of the River”. This shiny celestial being is located in the Eridanus constellation with an apparent magnitude of +0.445 at a distance of 114 light-years away from Earth. You can spot it from the Southern Hemisphere.
10. Betelgeuse (Alpha Orionis)
And lastly, we have Betelgeuse which is the second most luminous star in the constellation Orion with an apparent magnitude of +0.42 and at a distance of 640 light-years away from Earth. The name Betelgeuse also derives from Arabic and means either ”the armpit of Orion” or ”the hand of Orion”. This star is visible from the Northern Hemisphere.
Adopting Your Own Shiny Star
So there you have it, the top ten brightest stars in our sky. Now you may be wondering if you can adopt one of the brightest stars yourself. Just head over to Cosmonova where you can choose from the brightest stars, stars in your zodiac or even adopt binary stars so that you and your special loved one can have matching stars that are always magnetically connected to each other. And if you wish to commemorate a special day and time that was significant to you or your loved one, check out our custom made star maps at belowthestars.com