Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

April 19, 1998
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Credit: A. Dupree (CfA), R. Gilliland (STScI), FOC, HST, NASA

Explanation: Here is the first direct picture of the surface of a star other than our Sun. Taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1995, the atmosphere of Betelgeuse reveals some unexpected features, including a large bright hotspot visible below the center. Betelgeuse (sounds like "beetle juice") is a red supergiant star about 600 light years distant, easily recognizable from its brightness and reddish color in the constellation of Orion. While Betelgeuse is cooler than the Sun, it is more massive and over 1000 times larger. If placed at the center of our Solar System, it would extend past the orbit of Jupiter. Betelgeuse is nearing the end of its life and will become a supernova in a perhaps a few tens of millions of years.

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
&: Michigan Tech. U.