Beta Canum Venaticorum (Chara) and the Cocoon Galaxy (NGC 4490)

Beta CVN
All Images Copyright Steve Cannistra

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Magnitude:  4.21 (Beta CVN)
Size:  6.7 arcminutes (Cocoon Galaxy)
Distance: 27 light years (Beta CVN); 40-50 million light years (Cocoon Galaxy)
RA: 12h 30m 36s
Dec: 41 degrees 37' 59"

Beta Canum Venaticorum, aka Chara (Greek for "joy"), is the bright yellowish star to the right of center.  At 27 light years away, it is a close stellar neighbor with many similarities to our own sun:  1) it is a G0V main sequence star (click here for a discussion of stellar evolution), 2) its radius is only 4% larger than our sun, 3) it has a similar rotation rate (27 days), 4) it is at least 5 billion years old, and 5) it is single (as opposed to double or triple star systems, which do not allow the formation of stable planetary orbits).  There are a few differences compared to our sun, including a luminosity that is about 25% greater, and a slightly lower metallicity content (about 60% that of the sun).  However, the presence of metals including iron suggests that it evolved from a protostellar disk that could support the formation of rocky planets similar to Earth.  Its G0V location on the main sequence also suggests that it has a similar habitable zone to our own (i.e., a zone that could support the presence of liquid water).  All of these features make Beta CVN a reasonable candidate star that could support life (at least life as we know it).  An analysis of Beta CVN, as well as other stars that could potentially support the formation of life-bearing planets, has been conducted by Maggie Turnbull, post-doctoral research associate at the Department of Terrestrial Magnestism, Carnegie Institution of Washington. 
A recent NPR interview on this topic may be found here.  A nice bonus in this image is the presence of the Cocoon Galaxy, which is undergoing collision with a smaller, spiral galactic partner.  More information about this interesting pair of galaxies may be found here.

Photographic Details:
Date:  March 27, 2006
Takahashi FS102 at f6, on the G11 Losmandy Mount.
Autoguider:  SBIG STV with e-finder.
Camera:  Maxcam CM10.
Astronomik RGB type II filter set; IDAS LPS filter.
Exposures:  LRGB composite.  36 x 4' for luminance (unbinned); 7 x 5' each for R, G, and B (unbinned); 10 x 30 seconds each for R, G, B (unbinned) to obtain color for Beta CVN.
Conditions:  Temperature 50 degrees F at the start of imaging, dropping to 32 degrees 4 hours later; good transparency; average seeing; calm.
Debloomed with Ron Wodaski's Debloomer software, Calibrated and aligned in Maxim, Sigma combined using RC Sigma Reject MaximDL, followed by DDP in ImagesPlus (IP).  Levels, curves, high-pass sharpening in Photoshop CS (16 bit format).

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