‹‹ Looking Up

Betelgeuse… best by 01/18/102016

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Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse
Credit ESA/Herschel/PACS/L. Decin et al / NASA.gov
Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse

This week Hal informs us about the future plans of a red supergiant star.

This is “Looking UP! in southern Colorado,” from the Colorado Springs Astronomical Society. I’m Hal Bidlack, and there are lots of reasons to look up!

Warning – there’s a giant bomb in the sky, it’s going to go off soon! And by soon, I mean in the next hundred thousand years or so. And by giant bomb, I mean the wonderful and amazing star Betelgeuse!

Making up the upper left shoulder in the constellation Orion, Betelgeuse is one of the brightest stars in the sky. It’s commonly pronounced Beetlejuice, and that’s okay. You can even say it three times in a row if you want to.

Betelgeuse is a red supergiant star. It’s around 15 times more massive than our Sun but it’s nearly 100,000 times brighter, and it’s expanded to over 650 times the size of our Sun. If you swapped Betelgeuse with our Sun, the surface would be near the orbit of Jupiter – that’s a really big star.

Betelgeuse has been burning through its fuel with almost unbelievable rate. As a result, it’s doomed. And unlike our Sun, which will slowly burn out over the next few billion years, Betelgeuse, because of its mass, is destined to put on one of the cosmos’ most breathtaking shows – a supernova explosion. When it goes, Betelgeuse will flash into an explosion so massive and so violent, that even from a distance of 640 light years, it will outshine the full moon for days. It may well be visible in daylight. And this could happen tonight. Or tomorrow. Or maybe next week. Or maybe a bit longer – astronomers give Betelgeuse no more than 100,000 years before the big kaboom! That’s barely an instant in astronomical terms. So keep looking up, and maybe we’ll get lucky and see Betelgeuse Betelgeuse Betelgeuse go crazy.

If you’d like to take a closer look at Betelgeuse, or any of the other wonderful and amazing things in the sky, please visit KRCC.org or CSASTRO.org for a link to information on our monthly meetings and our free public star parties! 

This is Hal Bidlack for the Colorado Springs Astronomical Society, telling you to keep looking up, Southern Colorado!