Magazine article Natural History

The Fairest Star

Magazine article Natural History

The Fairest Star

Article excerpt

Sixty-four years ago, one of the brightest stars in the sky, Arcturus, was used to signal the start of the Chicago World's Fair. At the opening of the "Century of Progress" exposition, Arcturus's light was focused by telescopes onto photoelectric cells, and the current that was generated switched on the floodlights over the fairgrounds. Arcturus was chosen as the "inaugural" star because of its distance from Earth; by the best estimates of 1933, it would have taken the star's light forty years to reach Earth. Chicago had hosted the World's Fair in 1893-just forty years before. And so Arcturus generated publicity as well-newspapers around the country carried the story of how the 1933 fair would be opened by light that had started its journey to Earth while the 1893 fair was still in progress.

In May, Arcturus sparkles with a golden yellow hue, well above the eastern horizon. A huge star, it is about 25 times the diameter of the sun and possibly 100 times as luminous, but it is not nearly so hot or so dense. …

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