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The discovery of the first eclipsing binary helped solve a long-standing puzzle in astronomy. The star Algol, in the constellation of Perseus, changes its brightness in an odd but regular way. Normally, Algol is a fairly bright star, but at intervals of 2 days, 20 hours, 49 minutes, it fades to one-third of its regular brightness. After a few hours, it brightens to normal again. This effect is easily seen, even without a telescope, if you know what to look for.

In 1783, a young English astronomer named John Goodricke (1764–1786) made a careful study of Algol (see the feature on John Goodricke for a discussion of his life and work). Even though Goodricke could neither hear nor speak, he made a number of major discoveries in the 21 years of his brief life. He suggested that Algol’s unusual brightness variations might be due to an invisible companion that regularly passes in front of the brighter star and blocks its light. Unfortunately, Goodricke had no way to test this idea, since it was not until about a century later that equipment became good enough to measure Algol’s spectrum.

In 1889, the German astronomer Hermann Vogel (1841–1907) demonstrated that, like Mizar, Algol is a spectroscopic binary. The spectral lines of Algol were not observed to be double because the fainter star of the pair gives off too-little light compared with the brighter star for its lines to be conspicuous in the composite spectrum. Nevertheless, the periodic shifting back and forth of the brighter star’s lines gave evidence that it was revolving about an unseen companion. (The lines of both components need not be visible for a star to be recognized as a spectroscopic binary.)

The discovery that Algol is a spectroscopic binary verified Goodricke’s hypothesis. The plane in which the stars revolve is turned nearly edgewise to our line of sight, and each star passes in front of the other during every revolution. (The eclipse of the fainter star in the Algol system is not very noticeable because the part of it that is covered contributes little to the total light of the system. This second eclipse can, however, be detected by careful measurements.)

Any binary star produces eclipses if viewed from the proper direction, near the plane of its orbit, so that one star passes in front of the other (see [link] ). But from our vantage point on Earth, only a few binary star systems are oriented in this way.

Astronomy and mythology: algol the demon star and perseus the hero

The name Algol comes from the Arabic Ras al Ghul , meaning “the demon’s head.” Fans of Batman comic books and movies will recognize that this name was given to an archvillain in the series. The word “ghoul” in English has the same derivation. As discussed in Observing the Sky: The Birth of Astronomy , many of the bright stars have Arabic names because during the long dark ages in medieval Europe, it was Arabic astronomers who preserved and expanded the Greek and Roman knowledge of the skies. The reference to the demon is part of the ancient Greek legend of the hero Perseus, who is commemorated by the constellation in which we find Algol and whose adventures involve many of the characters associated with the northern constellations.

Perseus was one of the many half-god heroes fathered by Zeus (Jupiter in the Roman version), the king of the gods in Greek mythology. Zeus had, to put it delicately, a roving eye and was always fathering somebody or other with a human maiden who caught his fancy. (Perseus derives from Per Zeus , meaning “fathered by Zeus.”) Set adrift with his mother by an (understandably) upset stepfather, Perseus grew up on an island in the Aegean Sea. The king there, taking an interest in Perseus’ mother, tried to get rid of the young man by assigning him an extremely difficult task.

In a moment of overarching pride, a beautiful young woman named Medusa had compared her golden hair to that of the goddess Athena (Minerva for the Romans). The Greek gods did not take kindly to being compared to mere mortals, and Athena turned Medusa into a gorgon: a hideous, evil creature with writhing snakes for hair and a face that turned anyone who looked at it into stone. Perseus was given the task of slaying this demon, which seemed like a pretty sure way to get him out of the way forever.

But because Perseus had a god for a father, some of the other gods gave him tools for the job, including Athena’s reflective shield and the winged sandals of Hermes (Mercury in the Roman story). By flying over her and looking only at her reflection, Perseus was able to cut off Medusa’s head without ever looking at her directly. Taking her head (which, conveniently, could still turn onlookers to stone even without being attached to her body) with him, Perseus continued on to other adventures.

He next came to a rocky seashore, where boasting had gotten another family into serious trouble with the gods. Queen Cassiopeia had dared to compare her own beauty to that of the Nereids, sea nymphs who were daughters of Poseidon (Neptune in Roman mythology), the god of the sea. Poseidon was so offended that he created a sea-monster named Cetus to devastate the kingdom. King Cepheus, Cassiopeia’s beleaguered husband, consulted the oracle, who told him that he must sacrifice his beautiful daughter Andromeda to the monster.

When Perseus came along and found Andromeda chained to a rock near the sea, awaiting her fate, he rescued her by turning the monster to stone. (Scholars of mythology actually trace the essence of this story back to far-older legends from ancient Mesopotamia, in which the god-hero Marduk vanquishes a monster named Tiamat. Symbolically, a hero like Perseus or Marduk is usually associated with the Sun, the monster with the power of night, and the beautiful maiden with the fragile beauty of dawn, which the Sun releases after its nightly struggle with darkness.)

Many of the characters in these Greek legends can be found as constellations in the sky, not necessarily resembling their namesakes but serving as reminders of the story. For example, vain Cassiopeia is sentenced to be very close to the celestial pole, rotating perpetually around the sky and hanging upside down every winter. The ancients imagined Andromeda still chained to her rock (it is much easier to see the chain of stars than to recognize the beautiful maiden in this star grouping). Perseus is next to her with the head of Medusa swinging from his belt. Algol represents this gorgon head and has long been associated with evil and bad fortune in such tales. Some commentators have speculated that the star’s change in brightness (which can be observed with the unaided eye) may have contributed to its unpleasant reputation, with the ancients regarding such a change as a sort of evil “wink.”

Questions & Answers

why the energy cost
MASTER Reply
what is sagittarius
Noorzad Reply
what is gimine
Noorzad
Black hole of Milky way galaxy
deepanshu
thanks a lot for your sympath and information
Noorzad
thanks a lot for your sympath and information Deepanshu
Noorzad
this question is for atheists what created humans , how did they evolve
ilyes Reply
not entirely sure what this question has to do with Atheism but, firstly, there is no "who", life evolved in multiple paths, humans are simply one of those paths. The process of how life evolves is a very complicated but very well researched field of biology, so it would be worth doing research...
ben
...into that field, evolution isnt disputed. However, the direct path from the common ancestor (that we share with chimps) has not yet been completed. But know for sure that humans didn't just magically appear one day, it was over millions of years of evolution
ben
(I must ask though, what has this got to do with Atheism?)
ben
idk i thought believers will say god created us
ilyes
there are many types of believers one say that god created consciousness, one say we just magically appeared out of nowhere, and one say universe was created by God(all based on people I have met so far)
Tanmay
Hey
Asim
Tanmay!
Asim
Hello
Asim
hello Asim
Tanmay
hi my friends asim and tqnmay we hhave lern okay
Eyiba
did u forget me!!
Amit
Could God have created evolution? Nope, no way, too complicated.
Bennett
yes god can do that in theory
Tanmay
@Eyiba hello
Tanmay
@Amit seems like that XD
Tanmay
haha🤣🤣
Amit
This question is for theists, what created God?
Anthony
hi
UFOLIENS
God was begotten, not made. More of a concept than an entity.
Bennett
hello
Stuart
may i ask a question
Raluca Reply
yes why not you don't need to ask anyone for permission
Tanmay
sure, why not?
ca
-Why there are moons in every planet but there's note in mercure ?
Amal Reply
Well with mercury Venus also does not have moon.The reason that Mercury is not having moons is since it is too close to sun and thus if it would have any moon orbiting it ,then the moon will eventually attracted by sun due to it's high gravitational force whereas mercury has the lowest gravity
Anjali
The gravitational force of mercury is lowest in solar system and it won't be able to hold a moon in it's orbit
Anjali
Nice explanation
Asim
Thank you brother
Anjali
Did general theory of relativity leads us to singularity?
Asim
yes the general theory of relativity leads us to singularity
Anjali
But Einstein was not a believer of big bang. And singularity lead us to big bang?
Asim
yes Einstein was really astonished by his mathmatical answers that came fron his equations (this is what almost every one says)
Tanmay
and there are many theories stating how our universe came in which one is big bang
Tanmay
Einstein was against the fact that anything can come from nothing that our big bang says and he also thought that singularity (infinite mass in zero volume) can not be real(also what most people say)
Tanmay
also what most people say means that there is no evidence that he was against all these things
Tanmay
Okay
Asim
Tanmay
Asim
anything else
Tanmay
Do you believe that grand unified theory can be complete in future?
Asim
Do you believe that grand unified theory will be complete in future?
Asim
yes I do believe in it as I also believe big bang
Tanmay
Well i don't believe in big bang like Einstein didn't.
Asim
do you believe in wormholes are real?
Amit
@Asim then what do you think our universe came from or how it started
Tanmay
Well it's a myth.
Asim
@Amit I believe wormholes are real
Tanmay
It came from nothing Tanmay.
Asim
Even I believe in wormholes
Anjali
So Tanmay you must believe in baby universes.?
Asim
I believe that they are many things we can't explain or give prove but they are theories,imaginations and they are the basics for new discoveries
Anjali
So ,it is useless to argue over them
Anjali
But we should try to find new possibilities if we don't believe in old ones
Anjali
you are right @anjali
Amit
what is dark matter?
Amit
can a star turn into planet?
Amit
I have doubt on how Stephen hawking posses ideas of black hole by himself?
Enceladus
why do people believe in God and how are humans made
ilyes
No amit star can't turn into planet.
Asim
you are wrong asim
Amit
also Asim, please tell me why you think the big bang is a myth?
ben
@Asim what do you mean by it came from nothing what came from nothing
Tanmay
@Asik I don't know what baby universe is if you mean early universe then the question doesn't make sense
Tanmay
@Amit starts can become cold enough for us to live at high altitude but their surface will still be made of plasma
Tanmay
@Amit dark matter is a type of substance that doesn't interact with normal matter and also gives galaxies enough mass to hold its stars rather than to fly out by its rotation
Tanmay
Sorry Asim for wrong spelling of your name
Tanmay
@Tanmay thanks for your explanation
Amit
@Tanmay but a star can turn into a planet, but this transformation only happens for a very particular type of star known as a brown dwarf.
Amit
oh, somebody has google 😂
ben
I will check and then I will tell you if it's true or not thanks for the question
Tanmay
I will check as it is really wierd but thanks for your question
Tanmay
(oh no I was joking hahaha, Amit just took the definition that you see first on google and pasted)
ben
Tanmay baby universes is when something fell in black hole it's went into another universe called baby universe according to Stephen hawking. Well i don't know weather to believe it or not.
Asim
Amit brown dwarf are not planet or stars they have their own classification these are basically failed star, not massive enough to power hydrogen fission reaction.
Asim
ahh, didn't he use that to explain where "information" goes? because recently a paper was published stating that information may actually be re-emitted by the black hole as 'encoded' hawking radiation
ben
(so it may not be going to another universe, but instead coming back into our own)
ben
Hawking radiation are basically the the radiation emitted by black hole boundaries called event horizon.
Asim
@ben someone asked me this question today so i asked here and also google it..
Amit
So re-emitting doesn't make scene.
Asim
every black hole contains a singularity?
Amit
Yep absolutely.
Asim
ohhh, no worries dude, and yeah hawking radiation is a consequence of both quantum mechanics and relativity, really cool. And look it up Asim, it's a really interesting read
ben
but a singularity is a point in space where there is a mass with a infinte density. the problem is that infinities never exist in real world.
Amit
Ben it's really difficult to relate quantum mechanics to relativity.
Asim
Dude if you have done nobel price is waiting for you. (haha)
Asim
consequence of both quantum mechanics and relativity.!!!
Amit
Amit read theory of relativity and black hole singularities in Google. Everything will be cleared.
Asim
🤣🤣🤣
Amit
ok i will read this
Amit
hahahahaha, yeah that's true I'm being lazy as hell there haha, I mean more it's something relates the big and small (it's cool to see quantum phenomena having a direct effect on something predicted by relativity)
ben
(if a GUT is found I genuinely doubt I'd be able to comprehend the maths hahaha, maybe a long a way down the road but not yet)
ben
ben you are nominated for nobel as well as oscar for your thoughts..(hahaha)
Amit
what's you thinks about gravitational waves gentlemen?
Amit
hahahaha, and I love what I know so far but honestly dude, I've learnt essentially nothing about gravitational waves at university yet, I'm hoping that's going to be next year
ben
I would love to ask someone what the effects of constructive ans destructive interference of gravitational waves would be. Would total destructive interference lead to black holes?
ben
good luck for your next year... ben
Amit
if such things happen that's gonna be amazing.....
Amit
eyy thank you dude, likewise man, wish you all the best for your endeavours
ben
eyy cheers dude, likewise for you man, wishing all the best for you
ben
thanks buddy..
Amit
💝❤
Amit
(my bad, sometimes my phone wont show the first message as being sent, so I send another just in case)
ben
Gravitational Waves could help us travel faster in the space, if we are to set on an adventure like the one in The Interstellar, lol. Just saying
Awesh
what do u think created the universe
ilyes
m curious
ilyes
I believe in the theory where it states that our universe came from death of another universe and after our universe's death another universe will come from it
Tanmay
@Amit if that's what baby universe is then
Tanmay
my current understanding of universe and black holes, I would have to disbelief it
Tanmay
@Asim @Amit there is a feild in physics where we study about the physics of those objects who have intermediate size and follow some rules of quantum physics and relativity
Tanmay
@Ben what is full form of GUT?
Tanmay
@Ben I have never seen anyone spotting interference with gravitational waves but most of the people think that it will just be like interference in waves like light or sound. Do that means it's amplitude will change and will not create and black holes or stuff
Tanmay
@Awesh yes many people in youtube(some have good degrees and are astrophysicist) say that warping space is possible using gravitational waves
Tanmay
Do you all believe in multiverse
Anjali
I believe in multiverse
Tanmay
The relation between quantum physics and relativity is like sky and the land (hahaha)
Amit
what about the air between sky(let's assume height of clouds is sky) and land. It basically means that there is a field like that you should google it up
Tanmay
it's the most mysterious field and we almost know nothing about it. there are no laws(like Newton's law of motion) or something like that
Tanmay
The most undifined and fascinating theory is string theory what do u think about it?
Amit
how can I learned quantum mechanics
Harsh
what is the model about the earth being the center of the universe called?
Lordgy Reply
geocentric model
SCIENCE
I hope you got your answer.
SCIENCE
heliocentric universe
Jason
you are wrong Jason skerbinc
SCIENCE
in heliocentric model sun is at the center of the universe
Tanmay
what is black hole and stellar black hole
azeb Reply
does Millikan consider electron axial spin in his discovery of electrons mass using q/m ratio ? If No how it is possible that he found rest mass of electron (9×10^31 Kg) ?
Anurag Reply
how did light from up
Sourav Reply
Before there stars , there was matter and radiation . Before there were neutral atoms ,there was an ionized plasma ,and when that plasma froms neutral atoms , those allow the Universe to deliver the earliest light we see today .......
Apsara
how to know the distance of a star
Sourav Reply
What is time
Sourav
Technical Infinite Measurement of Evolution
Doc
not by the book but the simplicity of word play ....
Doc
to calculate the distance of a star we use parallax method (as far as my school has taught me).
Tanmay
in this method we see the star from one point and then after traveling some distance perpendicular to the distance of star we see it again. With this we can make a triangle and then it's median will give our distance
Tanmay
And time is just a way of defining when an event happened
Tanmay
oh and we will know the distance of all the 3 sides of triangle formed above if we multiply the time taken by light with speed of light and the third side will be known to us as it is dependent on our will
Tanmay
what is space fabric
Harsh
what are wormholes?
facty Reply
Holes made by worms
Neil
What is the difference between black hole and white hole ?
Apsara
black hole is the place where the massive body makes a large disturbance in space time fabric causing large gravity even light can't escape from it and all the bodies enter into on reaching a specific distance.
SCIENCE
A white hole is a hypothetical region of spacetime and singularity which cannot be entered from the outside, although energy-matter and light can escape from it. In this sense, it is the reverse of a black hole, which can be entered only from the outside and from which energy-matter and light can
SCIENCE
White holes appear in the theory of eternal black holes
SCIENCE
worm holes join 2 distant region of spacetime through which you can travel, covering large distance in short time
Tanmay
for example if you need to travel from A to B on a plane of paper then you can travel in a straight line joining those points but a worm hole will join those points using 3rd dimention which will make you travel that distance in short time
Tanmay
Hi,Do you known Kyaw Nyein Chan Hein!
zin Reply
No
Astrophysicist
Hello : I'm Kyaw Nyein Chan
zin
Hi I'm Kyaw Nyein Chan
zin Reply
Hello : good moring, I'm Kyaw Nyein Chan
zin Reply
hello good morning
Astrophysicist
good morning bro
Tanmay
how do you do?
Astrophysicist
I am fine what about you?
Tanmay
same as you
Astrophysicist
cool
Tanmay
Hiii can I joined your group
Harsh
How the Big Bang is made .
Apsara Reply
Kyaw Nyein Chan
zin
Practice Key Terms 1

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Source:  OpenStax, Astronomy. OpenStax CNX. Apr 12, 2017 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11992/1.13
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