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At 6:30pm central time in the USA I saw a rapidly twinkling red blue and white star in the sky. It was about south east and I was really confused. I looked it up it might be Sirius but I'm not sure. I know it's not an airplane cause it hasn't moved in 20 minutes. Does anyone know?
Sirius is the most likely identification. It is visible in the South East at 6:30 from the USA, it is the brightest star in the sky and it's brightness makes the twinkles caused by the atmosphere more noticable. Similarly its brightness makes the colours caused by twinkles more apparent.
By shaking the tripod a picture of the apparent colours of Sirius can be captured https://epod.usra.edu/blog/2012/01/sirius-twinkling.html
There are several other bright stars in that region of the sky: Betelgeuse, Rigel and Procyon, any of which could have been your star, but Sirius is the most likely simply as it is the brightest. The stars will be back in (almost) the same positions tonight. If you can find Orion and Orion's belt, and follow the direction down you will get to Sirius, which should confirm your identification.
Astronomy Picture of the Day
Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
2007 July 4
Red, White, and Blue Sky
Credit & Copyright: Chris Schur
Explanation: Contrasting colors in this beautiful sunset sky were captured on June 30 from Clear Creek Canyon Observatory in central Arizona, USA. The twilight scene includes brilliant Venus as the evening star, with a bright Saturn just above it, shining through thin clouds. The two wandering planets were a mere 1 degree apart or so, about twice the width of the full Moon rising above the eastern horizon on the other side of the sky. In fact, such serene skyviews were possible from all over planet Earth as Venus and Saturn approached a conjunction. Regulus, alpha star of the constellation Leo, is above and to the left of the close planetary pairing. At dusk, lights in tonight's sky will also feature Venus and Saturn low in the west and separated by about 2 degrees.
Countries with Red, White, and Blue Flags
Twenty-nine countries use these three colors in their national flag. Some examples have been mentioned below.
The United Kingdom (UK)
The national flag of the United Kingdom is known as the Union Jack or the Union Flag. The flag's current design dates back to January 1, 1801, and consists of a combination of three crosses: the red Cross of Saint George the red diagonal Cross of Saint Patrick and the white diagonal Cross of Saint Andrew, which has a blue background. At the time of its design, which occurred during the union of Ireland and Great Britain, these three symbols represented the three nations, namely England, Ireland, and Scotland. Wales was still part of the Kingdom of England at that time.
The United States (US)
The United States flag features a unique design of thirteen horizontal stripes of equal size, alternating between red and white, starting with red at the top. The canton bears a blue rectangle known as the union. It contains fifty small white stars representing each US state, while the stripes represent the thirteen colonies that gained independence from Britain. These thirteen states later became the first members of the Union. Other unofficial names for the flag include the Stars and Stripes, Old Glory, and the Star-Spangled Banner.
Also called the Ramhongsaek Konghwagukgi, the flag of North Korea is a simple design bearing a thick red horizontal band at the center with smaller blue bands bordering it on the top and bottom. The red band is also edged with thin white stripes. A red star with five points set upon a white circle is featured on the center band.
Analyzing the spectrum of the nebula associated with the star Merope in the Pleiades, Vesto Slipher concluded in 1912 that the source of its light is most likely the star itself, and that the nebula reflects light from the star (and that of the star Alcyone).  Calculations by Ejnar Hertzsprung in 1913 lend credence to that hypothesis.  Edwin Hubble further distinguished between the emission and reflection nebulae in 1922. 
Reflection nebulae are usually blue because the scattering is more efficient for blue light than red (this is the same scattering process that gives us blue skies and red sunsets).
Reflection nebulae and emission nebulae are often seen together and are sometimes both referred to as diffuse nebulae.
Some 500 reflection nebulae are known. A blue reflection nebula can also be seen in the same area of the sky as the Trifid Nebula. The supergiant star Antares, which is very red (spectral class M1), is surrounded by a large, red reflection nebula.
Reflection nebulae may also be the site of star formation.
In 1922, Edwin Hubble published the result of his investigations on bright nebulae. One part of this work is the Hubble luminosity law for reflection nebulae, which makes a relationship between the angular size (R) of the nebula and the apparent magnitude (m) of the associated star:
5 log(R) = -m + k
where k is a constant that depends on the sensitivity of the measurement.
The Urban Astronomer
Star color seems to be a big hit at public star parties. I'm not much of a double star observer, but the beautiful blue/orange combination of the Albireo system has been one of my best received targets at star parties lately, especially ones in the city of Chicago, where light pollution hinders faint fuzzies. I was slow to appreciate Albireo, but sometimes showing something easy to the public reminds us to take another look, and marvel with delight.
Thanks for the comment, Paulie. I will take your advice and look more often at Albireo since it is well placed in the sky this time of year. I have a star party tomorrow night and was planning to talk about star colors so I will definitely point the scope at the pair. And I hope I can develop an appreciation of Albireo as you have -- I admit, I have not warmed up to it but repeat viewings will likely move me toward being a fan :-)
It's not something I appreciated at first either, but I think you'll get a good reaction from it, and anything that pleases the crowd, pleases me.
Stars form out of galactic dusts of hydrogen and helium. Stars live some 10 billion years, with larger stars burning faster. They burn hydrogen most of their lives, but a few billion years before they die, they run out of it. They then burn helium.
A blue giant star is a swelling middle-aged star that is running out of hydrogen to burn but hasn’t started burning helium. It is blue because it burns hotter as it begins using the remaining hydrogen. After a few million years, these type of starts will begin to burn helium and swell up further.
A Deeper Look at the Astrophysics of a Blue Supergiant
That's the executive summary of a blue supergiant. Digging a little deeper into the science of such objects reveals a lot more detail. To understand them, it's important to know the physics of how stars work. That's a science called astrophysics. It reveals that stars spend the vast majority of their lives in a period defined as "being on the main sequence". In this phase, stars convert hydrogen into helium in their cores through the nuclear fusion process known as the proton-proton chain. High-mass stars may also employ the carbon-nitrogen-oxygen (CNO) cycle to help drive the reactions.
Once the hydrogen fuel is gone, however, the core of the star will rapidly collapse and heat up. This causes the outer lays of the star to expand outward due to the increased heat generated in the core. For low- and medium-mass stars, that step causes them to evolve into red giants, while high-mass stars become red supergiants.
In high-mass stars, the cores begin to fuse helium into carbon and oxygen at a rapid rate. The surface of the star is red, which according to Wien's Law, is a direct result of a low surface temperature. While the core of the star is very hot, the energy is spread out through the star's interior as well as its incredibly large surface area. As a result, the average surface temperature is only 3,500 - 4,500 Kelvin.
As the star fuses heavier and heavier elements in its core, the fusion rate can vary wildly. At this point, the star can contract in on itself during periods of slow fusion, and then become a blue supergiant. It's not uncommon for such stars to oscillate between the red and blue supergiant stages before eventually going supernova.
A Type II supernova event can occur during the red supergiant phase of evolution, but, it can qalso happen when a star evolves to become a blue supergiant. For example, Supernova 1987a in the Large Magellanic Cloud was the death of a blue supergiant.
Red, White, and Blue Stars for Veterans Day at Caledon
Come out early for Saturday’s star party at Caledon for our program on Red, White, and Blue stars at 5:15pm, before the star party starts. I’ll be showing the best images I could find of stars in an array of hues. I’ll also answer that always-popular musical question, why don’t I see any green stars? At the picnic pavilion, which is adjacent to our usual viewing field, at the front of Caledon State Park. See you there.
Why the U.S. Flag is Red, White and Blue
Every Fourth of July, we flaunt Uncle Sam hats, wave our flag, and watch fireworks shoot sparks into the night sky. But many never even stop to ask the question, "Why does America salute the red, white and blue?"
American geologist and Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Hagan Schmitt stands next to the US flag on the surface of the moon, during a period of EVA (Extra-Vehicular Activity) at the Taurus-Littrow landing site, December 1972.
Every Fourth of July, we flaunt Uncle Sam hats, wave our flag, and watch fireworks shoot sparks into the night sky. But many never even stop to ask the question, “Why does America salute the red, white and blue?”
On June 14, 1777 in Philadelphia, the Marine Committee of the Second Continental Congress adopted a resolution that read the following: “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field representing a new constellation.”
And with these words, the Stars and Stripes were born. Yet the resolution never said a word about the significance behind the choice of red, white and blue. And for good reason. The three colors did not have any official meaning when the flag was adopted in 1777.
The colors and their significance still trace back to the birth of the country, and had very specific meanings in the creation of the Great Seal a year earlier. On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress passed a resolution authorizing a committee to develop a seal for the country. The committee was instructed to draw up a seal that reflected the Founding Fathers’ beliefs and values, as well as the sovereignty of the new nation. Red, white and blue were chosen, and the Great Seal was officially adopted on June 20, 1782.
Heraldic devices such as seals have specific meanings for each element and color, and the U.S. Seal was no exception. Charles Thomson, Secretary of the Continental Congress, explained the significance to Congress when he presented the seal. “The colors,” Thomson said at the time, “are those used in the flag of the United States of America. White signifies purity and innocence. Red, hardiness & valour, and Blue… signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice.”
Mike Buss, a flag expert with the American Legion, says that the most obvious reason for the flag’s colors is that they were simply taken from our mother country’s flag — the Union Jack of England. “Our heritage does come from Great Britain, and that was some of the thought process that went about in coming up with our flag,” Buss says of the American flag’s red, white and blue. “They come from the three colors that the Founding Fathers had served under or had been exposed to.”
Over the years people have altered Thomson’s original interpretation. Some now say that red represents the blood spilled by the patriots and those who fight to protect our country. President Reagan even put his own spin on the matter when he proclaimed 1986 the Year of the Flag. “The colors of our flag signify the qualities of the human spirit we Americans cherish,” Reagan said. “Red for courage and readiness to sacrifice white for pure intentions and high ideals and blue for vigilance and justice.”
The significance behind the flag’s design is more commonly known than that of its colors. The 50 stars stand for America’s 50 states, while the 13 red and white stripes represent the 13 colonies. But there’s also a lesser-known interpretation for the Stars and Stripes. The House of Representatives’ 1977 book about the flag states: “The star is a symbol of the heavens and the divine goal to which man has aspired from time immemorial the stripe is symbolic of the rays of light emanating from the sun.”
Although most Americans today aren’t aware of the specific symbolism behind the flag’s red, white and blue, flag expert Buss is not concerned. Instead, he believes the flag’s power to evoke patriotism and pride after all these years is most important.
“For us veterans, the flag represents why we served,” Buss says. “We were there because the flag represented our freedoms — freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion.”
Color of Stars
Students observe colors in the flame of a burning candle to explore connections between matter, light, color, and temperature — basic concepts of matter and energy.They elaborate on these basic concepts in a new context of astronomy and stars. When matter gets hot enough, it emits visible light. When heated to the same temperature, light bulb filaments, horseshoes, and stars will emit the same characteristic blend of color (or wavelengths) of light. Stars are different colors — white, blue, yellow, orange, and red. The color indicates the star’s temperature in its photosphere, the layer where the star emits most of its visible light.
What Students Do
Students produce color drawings of the candle flame and scale models of stars.
Materials You Will Need
- StarDate radio script (“Denebola” or “Spring Triangle”)
- Candles and candle holders (e.g. cupcakes)
- White paper
- Crayons or colored pencils. Offer students a wide variety of colors.
- Construction paper
- Colored chalk
- Spherical balloons (yellow and white)
- Ruler or meter stick