The bright star Arcturus blazes high in the northern sky this time of year, and even shines above the northern horizon for observers in the southern hemisphere. You can’t miss it… its orange-white light is unmistakeable. While Arcturus is pretty enough in its own right, there’s a little-known group of dim stars surrounding the bright star. These faint stars are not part of a star cluster, but rather, just a chance alignment of little stars in the line of sight of Arcturus.
Part of this little star group, just south of Arcturus, can be seen in any telescope. At low magnification, it looks like a “Bell Curve” (or a Gaussian, if you’re mathematically inclined) about 1/3 of a degree in length. But to Frenchman Fulbert Picot, it looks like the hat of Napoleon. See if you can spot this asterism in a telescope at low magnification, or perhaps in binoculars if you have keen eyes. The image at the top of the page will give you an idea what to look for. And the map below will help you find Arcturus. Remember… the handle of the Big Dipper “arcs to Arcturus…”.