The Constellation Bootes, the Herdsman
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Bootes, the herdsman, rides through the sky during the late Spring and
early Summer. While he may have appeared as a shepherd to the
ancients, modern star-gazers like us can easily recognize the shape of
a kite, with the bright star Arcturus
at the point of the
kite where the tail is attached.
Arcturus is a bright red
supergiant star with a diameter nearly 20 times that of the Sun and a
brightness more than 100 times that of our Sun. Since it is only 36
light-years away (close for a star!), it appears as the brightest star
in Bootes, and, in fact, the fourth brightest star in the sky.
The name Bootes is derived from the Sumerian Riv-but-sane,
which means the "man who drove the cart". So Bootes was identified
with a farmer who plows the land during spring. The Romans called
Bootes the Herdsman of the Septemtriones, that is, of the seven
oxen represented by the seven stars of the Big Dipper, which was seen
as the cart or the plow.
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