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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Sky Tonight—February 10, Somber red Betelgeuse shines in the shoulder of Orion

Courtesy of EarthSky
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At nightfall and early evening, people at mid-northern latitudes see the famous Belt of Orion – three stars in a short, straight row – about halfway between the southern horizon and straight overhead. Later at night, you will find Orion in the southwest.

Above Orion’s Belt, you will find one of the sky’s most famous stars, ruddy-hued Betelgeuse. Kids especially like Betelgeuse, because its name sounds so much like “beetle juice.” The movie by that same name perpetuated this pronunciation. However, astronomers pronounce it differently. We say BET-el-jews.

More on Betelgeuse: Will explode someday

People have described this star as “somber” or sometimes “grandfatherly.” That may be because of Betelgeuse’s ruddy complexion, which indicates that this star is well into the autumn of its years. However, Betelgeuse is no ordinary red star. It is a magnificently rare red supergiant. According to Professor Jim Kaler – whose Stars website you should check out – there might be only one red supergiant star like Betelgeuse for every million or so stars in our Milky Way galaxy.

By the way, at this time of year, Betelgeuse’s constellation – Orion the Hunter – ascends to its highest point in the heavens in the evening, with the Hunter symbolically reaching the height of his powers. As night passes – with Earth turning eastward under the stars – Orion has his inevitable “fall,” shifting lower into the southwestern sky by late evening. Orion slowly heads westward throughout the evening hours and plunges beneath your western horizon in the wee hours after midnight.

Orion has another very bright star, called Rigel. As seen from northerly latitudes, blue-white Rigel sits below Orion’s Belt, while ruddy Betelgeuse stands above it.

Blue-white Rigel shines at the foot of Orion

Written by EarthSky

Astronomy Picture of the Day from NASA/JPL

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CHANDRA Photo Album

U.S. Naval Observator Astronomical Information center

Universe Today

StarDate Online

Sky and Telescope

National Geographic

Space Com

Simostronomy Blog

Amazing Space

The York County Astronomical Society

Scope City

James S McDonnell Planetarium

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