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Astronomical Observations & Research
* * * Analysis, sky location and images for selected entries in my Red Stars Catalog * * *

Mu Cephei - The Garnet Star

Mu Cephei is a deep red supergiant star in the northern constellation of Cepheus. The intensely red colouration of this gem has earned it the nickname of the "Garnet Star". It is indeed one of the loveliest sights in all the heavens and is best seen in binoculars and telescopes utilising low-power eyepieces.

Extend the line marking the tail of Cygnus out to the west from Deneb, as shown, and you will soon come to the Garnet Star.

Based upon its surface temperature/colour, apparent brightness, estimated distance from the Earth and other parameters, the Garnet Star falls into the category of an "M2Ia Supergiant" in its spectral classification on the Hertzsprung-Russel diagram. Its total bolometric luminosity is thought to be as much as 600,000 times that of our own Sun, though this figure is highly uncertain. The "bolometric luminosity" of a star is a measure of the *total* amount of energy that it gives out across all wavelengths of light in the electromagnetic spectrum, not just in the visible. This colossal output of power radiating from the Garnet Star makes it among the most luminous out of all the stars visible in our Milky Way galaxy. The star is placed at a steeply northern declination of +58.8o on the celestial sphere, which means it can never be seen from far southern hemisphere cities like Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Cape Town or Buenos Aires. Conversely, this also means the star is circumpolar and visible all year round from much of Europe and North America.


Under the right viewing conditions, colourful stars in the night sky can sometimes make you reminisce about real gemstones sparkling in the shop windows of jewellery stores as you see them during a romantic shopping spree.
Here is a 9mm / 3.2 carat reddish-brown garnet stone:

A terresetrial garnet stone

When this stone is placed onto a large sheet of black cloth and shone upon by an Osram M258CB jewellery display lamp and viewed from a distance of 15 meters away . . . it approximately resembles the appearance of the Garnet Star as seen in a pair of Nikon 8x40 binoculars in the midnight sky!
True or false? I have no idea, as I did not do this experiment myself... but a friend of mine who did, reassured me it works! ;-)

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