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Somber Betelgeuse shines in Orion’s shoulder

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Tonight for February 14, 2015

Ruddy-hued Betelgeuse is one of the sky’s most famous stars. Kids especially like Betelgeuse, because its name sounds so much like “beetle juice.” The movie by that same name perpetuated this pronunciation. But astronomers pronounce it differently. We say BET-el-jews. People have described this star as “somber” or sometimes “grandfatherly.” That may be because of Betelgeuse’s ruddy complexion, which, as a matter of fact, indicates that this star is well into the autumn of its years.

But Betelgeuse is no ordinary red star. It’s a magnificently rare red supergiant. According to Professor Jim Kaler – whose website Stars you should check out – there might be only one red supergiant star like Betelgeuse for every million or so stars in our Milky Way galaxy.

Red Antares is similar to Betelgeuse

By the way, at this time of year, Betelgeuse’s constellation – Orion the Hunter – ascends to its highest point in the heavens around 8 p.m. local time, with the Hunter symbolically reaching the height of his powers. As night passes – with Earth turning eastward under the stars – Orion has his inevitable “fall,” shifting lower into the southwestern sky by late evening. Orion slowly heads westward throughout the evening hours and plunges beneath the western horizon in the wee hours after midnight.

Bottom line: The ruddy star Betelgeuse depicts Orion’s shoulder. In mid-February, Orion reaches his his point for the night around 8 p.m. local time.

For the early riser

During the next few mornings, the bow of the waning crescent moon points toward the planet Mercury. You might need binoculars!

During the next few mornings, the bow of the waning crescent moon points toward the planet Mercury. You might need binoculars!

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