August 1, 2010

Astronomy Wear: M13

Last night I got an image in my head of a possible art project I could attempt on a rather cute but non-descript jean jacket I've had for a few years. I got online to look up photos of my subject (M13: the great globular star cluster in the constellation Hercules), made some sketches on graph paper, purchased some variously sized and colored rhinestones and a type of glue specifically meant to attach them permanently to fabric, filled up a shot glass with bleach, pulled out my favorite old Sharpie "Rub-a-Dubs" and set to work.

M13 is made up of several hundred thousand stars--of which many are some of the oldest in the universe. It is the brightest star cluster in the northern hemisphere and at a really dark location you can just make it out with the unaided eye. Through a telescope it is glorious! Let your eyes adapt for a few seconds at the eyepiece and many blue and gold stars pop out and seem to shimmer against a glowing background of innumerable tiny points of white light.

I did my best to accurately represent the position of orange-tinted and blue-tinted stars in the cluster from photos I looked up online, though in practice, I was only able to make a rough approximation of the cluster's appearance. Still, I think that those who've viewed many different globular star clusters should still be able to recognize a couple key patterns unique to M13 in the finished product.

I can't wait to wear it around town...or at least to the next star party! I think that besides being a cool astronomical "image", it also looks pretty stylish...of course I've never been known for my fashion sense.

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