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Environment & Science

Watching the Skies with Brad Klein | Feb. 12–18: Betelgeuse, Orion’s red supergiant

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BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Brad Klein reviews the week’s astronomical highlights with Bethlehem’s "Backyard Astronomy Guy," Marty McGuire.

This month… it’s all about Orion.

One of the most visible and easily identifiable constellations in the winter sky, Orion is on the rise in the Southeastern sky after sunset for the entire month of February, moving west as the evening goes on.

This week, the focus is on the star at the upper left of the prominent constellation, Betelgeuse. You can think of it as the right shoulder of Orion the Hunter (or Orion the Dog Walker, if you prefer).

“It’s the top left star and you really can see… that reddish color even with the naked eye," McGuire said.

“Betelgeuse is a red supergiant star that’s about 700 times larger than our own sun.”

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Betelgeuse is the red supergiant star at Orion’s "right shoulder"

Besides its striking color, Betelgeuse is a fascinating star for many reasons.

Perhaps the most striking is its ultimate fate: It is expected to explode in a massive supernova in the next million years.

When it does, it will be about as bright in the sky as the Earth’s moon, and clearly visible during the day.

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Brad Klein, left, and Marty McGuire at the SteelStacks in Bethlehem.

While a million years may seem like a long time, in astronomical terms that’s a pretty small window.

“It’s a blip of time in the scale of the universe," McGuire said.