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Saturday, September 23, 2023

December 14, Focus on stars Betelgeuse and Rigel in Orion

Courtesy of EarthSky
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Orion the Hunter is one of the most prominent constellations in all the heavens. You cannot fail to spot Orion’s Belt – three medium-bright stars in a short, straight row – if you look eastward in the evening. The magnificent Orion Nebula, or M42, is a fuzzy patch in Orion’s Sword.

Most constellations have only one bright star, but Orion has two: Rigel and Betelgeuse. Rigel is Orion’s left foot. A blue-white supergiant and one of the most luminous stars known, it is nearly 800 light-years away. If it were as close as Sirius, the brightest star visible to the eye (and only about 8.6 light-years away), Rigel would shine much more brilliantly than Venus, our sky’s brightest planet.

Betelgeuse – the other bright star in Orion – is the Hunter’s right shoulder. A red supergiant, Betelgeuse is no slouch of a star either. In fact, if Betelgeuse replaced the sun in our solar system, its outer layers would extend past Earth and Mars and to nearly the orbit of Jupiter.

Written by Deborah Byrd

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