56 Persei, 55 Persei & V590 Persei -- Three Stars in Perseus
A View of Stellar Complexity
In a somewhat isolated section of Perseus approximately four-degrees east of the California
Nebula and two-degrees south are three relatively obvious stars which dominate the field of
view in a small to moderate-sized amateur telescope. The northern most star V590 is a
variable star. It also goes by the name of Struve 533 indicating it is a double star. The middle
star, 55 Persei, is a single blue-white star while the most southern of the three stars, 56 Persei
(also known as Struve 81) is a Multiple Star System (at least three known stars and possibly
Stars come in many sizes, luminosities, and colors. They are born, age and die. They are born
in groups but often do not stay with their stellar siblings but move away from their birthplace as
lone stars (like our sun) or in small gravitationally bound pairs or multiples. Each star is just not
a star -- but a unique story in and of itself.
These three stars reflect the complexity contained in the stars. The primary star of V590 pulses
in size and brightness and shines light-blue while its companion is a more subdued orange color.
The middle star (55 Persei) is a brilliant bright blue single star while the equally bright yellow
southern star (56 Persei) is a multiple star of which only its brightest companion can be seen in
my refractor -- it is a white dwarf – a highly dense cinder of a dying star whose internal nuclear
force has long been extinguished.
Through the telescope these three stars may look similar, but each is a study of its own. The
same goes for all the other one-hundred billion stars in just our home galaxy (one galaxy of two
trillion in the visible universe). Looks like that alone is justification (as if I need it) to spend
some additional time at the telescope.