Interesting Facts About Rigel

Rigel is one of the brightest celestial objects in the night sky. But that's not all; there are quite a few interesting tidbits to know about this bright star, and this Buzzle write-up has them all.
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Interesting fact about Rigel
Did You Know?

Rigel's name is derived from the Arabic phrase, Riǧl Ǧawza al-Yusra, which means "the left foot of the central one".
The Orion is one of the most widely known constellations in the night sky. Also being among the brightest, it is also rather easy to spot. You may recognize it by its other name, the Hunter, derived from the mythical hunter, Orion, who was often depicted to be facing the charging Bull (Taurus).

Those interested in astronomy will know what makes the Orion constellation so special. For the uninitiated, this constellation houses a number of famous nebulae including the Orion Nebula and the Horsehead Nebula, along with two of the ten brightest stars in the sky―Alpha Orionis or Betelgeuse and Beta Orionis or Rigel.

Which brings us to the first and rather interesting fact about the star, Rigel.

Interesting Facts About Rigel Star

Naming conventions state that the brightest star in a constellation receives the designation Alpha, while the second-brightest is Beta, and so on. However, this doesn't hold precisely true for the Orion constellation. Instead, Betelgeuse is named Alpha Orionis, whereas Rigel is Beta Orionis. This is owing to the fact that Betelgeuse is a variable star, meaning that its brightness tends to fluctuate. It does shine brighter than Rigel at times; but this has been known to occur sparingly.

Rigel is known to be a visual binary, comprising two stars with different levels of brightness. This fact has been established since 1831(or perhaps even earlier), when it was first measured by the German astronomer, F. G. W. Struve.

Rigel is a blue supergiant. It is estimated to be twice as hot as our Sun, way larger in size, and several times brighter. Safe to say then, that life on Earth would not be possible if we were as close to Rigel as we are to our Sun.

This star is around 10 million years old. It is expected to grow to become a red supergiant, just like Betelgeuse in the same constellation.

Being a blue star, Rigel emits most of its light in ultraviolet (UV) rays. It is estimated to be at a distance of anywhere between 850 to 950 light years away from Earth.

Its surface temperature hovers around 22,000 degrees F, more than twice as hot as the Sun.

Rigel moves through several dust clouds, which it illuminates. In its vicinity is the Orion or Witch-Head Nebula (IC 2118), which reflects this star's light.

With a magnitude 0.18, Rigel is the seventh brightest star in the sky, excluding the Sun.

How to Spot Rigel in the Orion Constellation

Orion constellation with location of Rigel and Betelgeuse
Spotting the Rigel in the night sky

To spot Rigel, you first need to locate its constellation, Orion. You'll have to look for three stars in a short, straight line. These stars denote Orion's Belt. A line drawn downward at a right angle from Orion's Belt takes you to the bright and bluish Rigel. To be sure, draw a diagonal line tilted slightly towards the left to spot Betelgeuse, which has a distinct orange-colored hue.

In the northern hemisphere, you can spot it in the east before dawn in late summer. Look for Orion high in the south on winter evenings.
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Published: June 20, 2014
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