Updated: Jan 8
Following on from our look at Betelgeuse, a few weeks ago, we have another incredible star in the magnificent constellation of Orion. The star in question is Rigel (Beta Orionis), the beautiful blue white supergiant. Strangely enough, although Betelgeuse is designated as Alpha Orionis and Rigel as Beta, the truth is, Rigel is almost always brighter than Betelgeuse. Either way, Rigel is usually the seventh brightest star in the sky and is a real shining diamond. If Rigel were as close as Sirius, the brightest star visible to the eye (and only about 8.6 light-years away), Rigel would shine much more brilliantly than Venus, our sky’s brightest planet. Wow, this would actually cast shadows as Venus does, in a truly dark environment. You may not believe that last statement but its true! Email me for more details if you are unsure why that is.
Rigel is a type B8 supergiant star and is around 900 light years distant and has a magnitude of 0.14. It is also classed as a double star and its companion has a magnitude of 6.7 which is not faint by any means. However, through a telescope it is difficult to see due to the brightness of Rigel, although many observers claim to have seen it through a 6 inch scope. I have seen the companion myself, though the observation was with an 8 inch reflector and it is a beautiful sight because it appears so close to Rigel. The system is now known to have at least 4 stars. Rigel has now exhausted the hydrogen fuel in its core, expanded and cooled as it moves away from its main sequence and is expected to eventually end its stellar life as a type II supernova. Though this star shines so brightly, it is young compared to our sun because its mass causes it to burn out so much quicker. Better to burn out than fade away!
Rigel and the constellation of Orion are prominent right now, looking towards the south, so if its clear, go take a look at this huge blue diamond. As always with my discussions of these incredible stars, I ask you to ponder on reality, especially in these days of no trust and political bullshit that are forced upon us and ask yourself what is really important in this universe. To quote another famous line from a well known film: "Look at the size of that thing". Until next time, keep rocking and keep looking up!