Mysterious Betelgeuse

The latest buzz amongst astronomers is the noticeable dimming of the star Betelgeuse. This orange coloured beacon is located to the upper left of the iconic constellation Orion the Hunter. The supergiant star is less than 10 million years old and is already at the end of its short stellar life as this type of star burn hard and die fast. By comparison, our sun is halfway through its estimated10 billion year life span.

Betelgeuse is located about 650 light-years away and is a semi-regular variable star but this is the second dimmest recording of the star since the 1920s. Will the star becomes a supernova in the near future is anyone’s guess but not likely. However, science has been known to throw us a curveball now and then. Betelgeuse has been dimming since October of this year but is more noticeable now. After a long spell of bad weather, I was able to step outside and could not believe my eyes. It was the 10th brightest star in the sky but has dropped to 21st.

The annual Quadrantid meteor shower is now underway. The entire shower lasts from December 27 to January 10 and peaks on the morning of January 4 around 3 a.m. eastern time. The field of dust debris is generated by asteroid 2003 EH1 and not the traditional comet. This asteroid orbits the Sun every five and a half years and might be a “dead” or “rock” comet. The 60% lit moon will set around 2 a.m. so you will have a few dark hours to enjoy the show. This shower will produce about 80 faint meteors per hour with the occasional fireball.

The planet Venus now dominates the western sky. Get your cameras ready on the nights of January 27 and 28 as the crescent moon joins Venus in a nice photo op. Look for the “ghostly” glow of earthshine on the unlit side. This is also called the Da Vinci Glow. Mars is making its appearance in the early morning sky. On January 20, the 19% lit waning moon teams up with Mars and Antares in the east.

Full Wolf Moon will occur on January 10 with the new moon on January 24.

Until next month, clear skies everyone.

Gary Boyle

eNews date: 
Wednesday, January 1, 2020