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Saturday, March 28, 2020

This Valentine’s Day, amateur astronomers to trace a red rose in the sky

Rao said their mission as amateur astronomers is to get more people to enjoy the splendour of the evening and night skies

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune | Updated: February 13, 2020 12:33:13 am
This Valentine’s Day, amateur astronomers to trace a red rose in the sky Betelgeuse is part of the Orion constellation.

Some amateur astronomers in Pune have found a simple, innovative way to connect with loved ones and celebrate Valentine’s Day with the stars – literally.

“The Orion constellation can’t be missed. Betelgeuse is the name of the star, which can be easily marked by its distinct reddish hue. It reminds one of a red rose. So, friends or lovers can both look at Betelgeuse and silently exchange a private message,” young amateur astronomer Anjanee Rao told The Indian Express.

Betelgeuse, also called a ‘red giant’, is 600 light years away.

Rao said their mission as amateur astronomers is to get more people to enjoy the splendour of the evening and night skies. “So, we thought of this novel way for friends to connect with each other, especially when they can’t meet in person. Instead of making the day commercial and exchanging material gifts, this is a simple, beautiful way to enjoy silent communion with each other by admiring the beautiful universe,” she said.

Professor Arvind Paranjpye, director of Nehru Planetarium, Mumbai, said, “Look up at the evening sky around 8.30 pm on February 14. Ask your friend to do the same. You will see the majestic Orion (The Hunter) constellation, which has almost every object that is of interest to the amateur astronomer. Right in the centre of the constellation are three prominent stars in a straight line. These are Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka. They form the belt of the hunter. They are flanked by four bright stars that form the shoulders and knees of the hunter. Imagine that the hunter is facing you, and look at his right shoulder. You will see a star that has a reddish hue, like a pale red rose. This is Betelgeuse, known to astronomers as a red giant. This cool, red giant is going to assist us in our long-distance Valentine’s Day celebration,” he said.

“We are sending this to several amateur astronomers’ groups, so that special friends can look at the beautiful Betelgeuse with its rose hue together, and connect with a common point across space and time…,” says Rao.

Betelgeuse, the ‘red giant’ star

Betelgeuse, the ‘red giant’ star, has almost reached the end of its life. All the hydrogen in its core has been converted to higher elements, and the heat generated from various cycles of fusion expanded its atmosphere outward. As its atmosphere expanded, it began to cool, and acquired a reddish appearance. It is almost 800 times the size of the Sun. Betelgeuse is so huge that if it were to be situated where the Sun is, it would engulf the orbit of Jupiter. It is about 600 light years away from the Earth. The Sun will also turn into a red giant like Betelgeuse about 4 billion years from now. But while Betelgeuse is expected to explode as a supernova within a million years, our Sun will end its life in a whimper, going from a red giant to a quiet white dwarf.

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