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Utah Skies: Fomalhaut, The Lonely Star of Autumn


Fomalhaut at this time of year can be seen as a bright star in the southern sky. Fomalhaut is also called the Lonely Star of Autumn because it is the only bright star in the evening sky at this time of year. 

Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are also visible at this year but they are planets rather than stars. To see Fomalhaut, look to the southern sky in the early evening. You will not want to mistake it for reddish Mars that is much brighter and higher up in the south eastern sky.

Fomalhaut is larger than our sun with a diameter about twice as big. It is believed to be a young star of only 250 million years old compared to our sun which is estimated to be 5 billion years old. Fomalhaut because of its large size will likely only last a billion years at which time it will exhaust its fuel and slough off its outer layers leaving only a white dwarf core. Our sun will share a similar fate but not for at least another 5 billion years.

Fomalhaut is surrounded by a large dusty ring that was imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope. Within this disk a new planet named Fomalhaut b was discovered in 2008. Because of its large distance from Fomalhaut this planet takes 872 years to complete a single orbit.

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