Thursday, January 7, 2010
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.