Big Old Betelgeuse!

June 25, 2011 at 11:14 PM (Uncategorized)

Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse!  Getting back to my fascination with astronomy topics, I was reading some of the details about the star Betelgeuse.  I find it to be one of the more fascinating of the stars that is being examined continuously. 

The official name for Betelgeuse is Alpha Orionis.  It is a red supergiant, located in the constellation Orion, roughly 640 light years from our Sun.  The observed size of Betelgeuse makes it one of the largest stars ever discovered.  This star is estimated to be between twelve and seventeen times the mass of The Sun. 

Putting it into perspective, Betelguese is so big that if it was in our solar system, it would swallow Earth!  It’s size is equivalent to a distance that nearly extends from The Sun, beyond the orbit of Jupiter, and nearly to Saturn.  The star is an irregular pulsating variable, which allows it’s diameter to change.  Estimates say that Betelgeuse alternates in diameter to between 550 times and 920 times the size of The Sun.  

Betelgeuse is encircled by a cloud of gas.  Two theories currently exist to explain this cloud.  One states that it is believed to be ejecting mass from it’s polar regions.  The other theory is that convection within Betelgeuse is creating jets of gas that have created a surrounding cloud. 

 Betelgeuse is a neighbor star to us, also located within The Orion Spur of The Milky Way.  It’s distance shifts between 495 light years and 640 light years from Earth.  Being a red giant, it is a star of a cooler temperature, measured at around 5,800 degrees, Fahrenheit.  Other stars near to Betelgeuse include Alnilam, Bellatrix, Mintaka, and Rigel.

It is believed that Betelgeuse may be nearing it’s point of supernova.  The star is ejecting mass from it’s outer layers.  The Very Large Telescope at Paranal Observatory, Cerro Paranal, Chile, has taken images of a nebulous formation around the star.  Studying scientists speculate that Betelgeuse could explode at any time between today and the next 100,000 years.  Some 2012 psuedoprophets speculate that the star will explode next year, creating a second sun in our skies!

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