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Monday, March 01, 2021

This Valentine’s Day, paint the sky red

This red star is a "supergiant". It is 700 times bigger than the Sun.

By: Express News Service | Pune |
February 11, 2021 12:13:27 pm
Betelgeuse, Valentine's DayThis artist’s impression shows the supergiant star Betelgeuse as it was revealed on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), which allowed two independent teams of astronomers to obtain the sharpest ever views of the supergiant star Betelgeuse. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ESO/L. Calçada)

Celebrate this Valentine’s Day with your loved one under the stars… well, at least one of them. On February 14, at about 8.30 pm, face south and look for three stars, neatly aligned in a row and surrounded by four bright stars in the shape of a triangle. That’s the Orion constellation. It is called Mrugha (stag) in Indian astronomy, says Nehru Planetarium Director Prof Arvind Pranajpye.

The star in the upper left corner of the rectangle, with a distinct red colour, is the Betelgeuse. Its Indian name is Kakshi. This is the ‘rose’ on Valentine’s Day, Prof Paranjpye adds.

This red star is a “supergiant”. It is 700 times bigger than the Sun. The star is about 500 to 600 light-years away and therefore the light that one can see today started from the star at least 500 years ago, he explains.

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This star has been in the news since last year when observers noted that it’s ‘visibly’ dimmed. It is believed that it shed some of its surface layer, which then blocked the light from the star. Betelgeuse is expected to explode any day between now and the next hundred years. And when it explodes it will be brighter than the Moon as seen from Earth, the astronomer adds.

That date could even be February 14.

”But if that doesn’t happen, enjoy its rosy presence in the sky, because that pleasure may be short-lived, depending on when its internal pressures force Betelgeuse to explode as a supernova,” he says.

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