The Dimming of Betelguese

Published by Lois Clymer on

Orion is one of the most magnificent constellations in the sky. You can easily find him these winter evenings if the sky is clear. Look for his belt with its three bright stars. From his belt hangs a sword which contains the Orion nebulae and looks like a tiny hazy spot. His shoulders are marked by two bright stars, Betelguese and Belletrix and then his legs are marked by two more bright stars.

Betelguese, the bright star in Orion’s right shoulder, is a red supergiant star. At 170 million miles in diameter, it is so large it could fit inside the earth’s orbit around the sun.

Over the last few weeks, astronomers say that Betelguese has dimmed to the faintest it has been in the past century. Some astronomoers question if the big star will go supernova and explode. That probably won’t happen because Betelguese has a tendency to get brighter and then dim.

At its brightest, Betelguese is one of 6 or 7 brightest stars we can see in the night sky. It’s dimming now has dropped it below the top twenty brightest stars. If it did explode, astronomers say the explosion could be half as bright as the full moon. That would be a spectacular sight.

But based on its past behavior, Beleguese is expected by astronomers to get its faintest in January and then get brighter.

Get outside clear nights and keep an eye on it!

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