Let me tell you what a star is. (I have a good reason lol). This is the area of space known as M24 (M for Messier) and the uncountable stars in this one tiny piece of the universe.
Stars are cosmic energy-engines that produce heat, light, ultraviolet rays, x-rays, and other forms of radiation. They are composed largely of gas and plasma, which is a super-heated state of matter composed of subatomic particles. Three out of every four stars exist as part of a binary system, with two mutually orbiting stars.
Now that we have that done, next year, say mid-2009, a star that has baffled scientists for years will eclipse. This is the star called Epsilon Aurigae which is a third-magnitude, F-type SUPER-GIANT locked in a grouping of three other stars. It is found in the constellation Auriga, "The Charioteer" and is a binary star that last eclipsed during 1982-1984.
The Epsilon Aurigae system is the most interesting and startling system, puzzling astronomers for over 150 years. There's many reasons but here's a big one:
light-echoes from a super-giant
The eclipse takes TWO YEARS to complete, every 27.1 years. This means its mass must be gigantic. There has been no satisfactory explanation for this, and what makes it even more exciting is there seems to be a "mid-eclipse" brightening. How can that be?? There's one explnation - remember what I said in the description of what a star is? Okay so, since the eclipsing body, Epsilon, is a giant cloud of gases enclosing two small stars orbiting each other, perhaps they sweep out a giant area in the middle - like a donut. A very BIG donut.
Here's where the constellation is:
This is the constellation Auriga. The star Epsilon Aurigae is found in the upper right. I'd suggest getting a nice pair of binocs before next spring! Imagine, a star eclipsing, and taking two years to do it.
A mile-wide asteroid streaking across stars
Space Area M51 with progenitor star - can you see it in the upper right, very bright? A progenitor is a "creator" star, the origin of the mass that exists in its near-space.
More very young stars
Remnant of a star gone super-nova
Spiral Galaxy M100
Light echoes from exploding star
Usually called "The Eye of God" this is the Helix Nebula, a gaseous envelope being expelled by a Dying Star
Pictures courtesy of Hubble