Thursday, January 7, 2010

Tiger Star

My favorite stars are out this time of year. Bright, colorful stars, with evocative names. Procyon. Sirius. Aldebaran. Capella. All of them are around the general area of Orion.

This one, Betelgeuse, is a gorgeous red giant in Orion, in the upper left-hand corner. It forms the top bit of Orion's left arm (Betelgeuse actually means "armpit of the Great One"). This picture, from Astronomy Picture of the Day, shows it not to be an even red, but rather spotted and striped in shades of orange and red and white. It looks a lot like a tiger to me.

Red giants are at the very end of their lives. So Betelgeuse is at the top of the list of stars most likely to explode soon. Soon, in astronomical terms, means it could be next week, could be in a million years.


ArtSparker said...

It might be fun to be a gorgeous red giant, but not if you were in danger of exploding shortly.




Maggie said...

When I look at that picture, my eyes go buggy and it looks like the star is expanding on the page.

Margin of error in astronomical terms seems to be rather comparable to margin of error in political terms. Heh.

Clowncar said...

Hey, Art, Michael Keaton just showed up!

Maggie, I told my oldest last winter about how Betelgeuse was gonna blow up "soon." For the next few weeks, she came home and asked "has that star blown up yet, Daddy?" every day. So she still hasn't pinned down that whole margin of error concept either.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

Betelgeuse is a red giant (as you've pointed out). Rather a large one, too. It expands and contracts, like a heart when it beats.
Or, since you have two little ones... like, 'I'll huff and puff and blow myself up'.

When Betelgeuse is at it's largest inflation, it is the same circumference as Jupiter's orbit around our sun; meaning, if Betelgeuse were exactly where our sun is & at it's biggest, we'd be toast and Jupiter would be doing a circular tango with it.

Don't you just love these stars? They are favorites of mine, too. Orion is incredible, the winter circle is so beautiful, and all the wonderful things in the winter night sky hold me spellbound.


And you get it. That's awesome!

Scarlett & Viaggiatore

Clowncar said...

This is my second favorite sky of the year, Scarlett. My favorite is late August, when Scorpio and Sagittarius are rearing their lovely heads.