Universe Guide

Betelgeuse (Alpha Orionis, 58 Orionis) Star Facts

Betelgeuse Facts

  • Betelgeuse is a pulsating supergiant star that can be located in the constellation of Orion. The description is based on the spectral class.
  • Betelgeuse is a main star of the constellation outline.
  • Based on the spectral type (M2Ib) of the star, the star's colour is red .
  • Betelgeuse is the 10th brightest star in the night sky and the 2nd brightest star in Orion based on the Hipparcos 2007 apparent magnitude. The star can be seen with the naked eye, that is, you don't need a telescope/binoculars to see it.
  • Betelgeuse has a radius that is 887.00 times bigger than the Suns. Radius
  • Using the most recent figures given by the 2007 Hipparcos data, the star is 497.96 light years away from us. Distance

Information on Betelgeuse

Betelgeuse is one of the more famous stars and the eighties film Beetlejuice is a play on the stars name. The film Beetlejuice has nothing to do with space or astronomy, the film is about ghosts hiring another ghost to scare away the human occupants of their building.

Betelgeuse is a likely candidate to go supernova in the astronomical near future. When we talk about near future astronomically, we mean thousands and hundreds of thousands of years, not in the next decade or so..

Betelgeuse is a Cepheid Variable Star which means it grows and shrinks over time. The fact that it grows and shrinks shouldn`t make you underestimate its size, it is truly gigantic. If was in the centre of The Solar System, it would engulf all the rocky planets, Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars and would extend out past Jupiter but how much further is open to debate.

Betelgeuse's Alternative Names

Alpha Orionis (Alf Ori) is the Bayer Classification for the star. The Bayer Classification was created by Johann Bayer in 1603. The brightest star in the constellation is normally given the Alpha designation, there are exceptions such as Pollux which is Beta Geminorum.

The Id of the star in the Yale Bright Star Catalogue is HR2061. HIP27989 is the reference name for the star in the Hipparcos Star Catalogue. The Id of the star in the Henry Draper catalogue is HD39801.

Betelgeuse has alternative name(s) :- , alf Ori. In Arabic, it is known as Yad al-Jauza'.

Flamsteed designations are named after the creator, Sir John Flamsteed. Sir John named the stars in the constellation with a number and its latin name, this star's Flamsteed designation is 58 Orionis. The Flamsteed name can be shortened to 58 Ori.

BD number is the number that the star was filed under in the Durchmusterung or Bonner Durchmusterung, a star catalogue that was put together by the Bonn Observatory between 1859 to 1903. The star's BD Number is BD+07 1055.

More details on objects' alternative names can be found at Star Names .

Location of Betelgeuse

The location of the supergiant star in the night sky is determined by the Right Ascension (R.A.) and Declination (Dec.), these are equivalent to the Longitude and Latitude on the Earth. The Right Ascension is how far expressed in time (hh:mm:ss) the star is along the celestial equator. If the R.A. is positive then its eastwards. The Declination is how far north or south the object is compared to the celestial equator and is expressed in degrees. For Betelgeuse, the location is 05h 55m 10.29 and +07° 24` 25.3 .

Radial Velocity and Proper Motion of Betelgeuse

Proper Motion

All stars like planets orbit round a central spot, in the case of planets, its the central star such as the Sun. In the case of a star, its the galactic centre. The constellations that we see today will be different than they were 50,000 years ago or 50,000 years from now. Proper Motion details the movements of these stars and are measured in milliarcseconds. The star is moving 11.30 ± 0.58 milliarcseconds/year towards the north and 27.54 ± 0.83 milliarcseconds/year east if we saw them in the horizon.

Radial Velocity

The Radial Velocity, that is the speed at which the star is moving away/towards the Sun is 21.91000 km/s with an error of about 0.51 km/s . When the value is negative then the star and the Sun are getting closer to one another, likewise, a positive number means that two stars are moving away. Its nothing to fear as the stars are so far apart, they won't collide in our life-time, if ever.

Physical Properties of Betelgeuse

Betelgeuse Colour and Temperature

Based on the star's spectral type of M2Ib , Betelgeuse's colour and type is red supergiant star. The star's effective temperature is 3,590 Kelvin which is cooler than our own Sun's effective Temperature which is 5,777 Kelvin

Betelgeuse Luminosity

Luminosity is the amount of energy that a star pumps out and its relative to the amount that our star, the Sun gives out. The figure of 36,554.42 that I have given is based on the value in the Simbad Hipparcos Extended Catalogue at the University of Strasbourg from 2012.

Betelgeuse Radius

Betelgeuse Radius has been calculated as being 887.00 times bigger than the Sun. The Sun's radius is 695,800km, therefore the star's radius is an estimated 617,174,600.00.km. If you need the diameter of the star, you just need to multiple the radius by 2.

Betelgeuse Mass

The Betelgeuse's solar mass is 4.97 times that of our star, the Sun. The Sun's Mass is 1,989,100,000,000,000,000,000 billion kg. which to calculate using this website is too large. To give idea of size, the Sun is 99.86% the mass of the solar system.

Betelgeuse Iron Abundance

Betelgeuse Iron Abundance is 0.09 with an error value of 9.99 Fe/H with the Sun has a value of 1 to put it into context. The value comes from the Hipparcos Extended Catalog.

Betelgeuse Apparent and Absolute Magnitudes

Betelgeuse has an apparent magnitude of 0.45 which is how bright we see the star from Earth. Apparent Magnitude is also known as Visual Magnitude. If you used the 1997 Parallax value, you would get an absolute magnitude of -5.14 If you used the 2007 Parallax value, you would get an absolute magnitude of -5.47. Magnitude, whether it be apparent/visual or absolute magnitude is measured by a number, the smaller the number, the brighter the Star is. Our own Sun is the brightest star and therefore has the lowest of all magnitudes, -26.74. A faint star will have a high number.

Distance to Betelgeuse

Using the original Hipparcos data that was released in 1997, the parallax to the star was given as 7.63000 which gave the calculated distance to Betelgeuse as 427.47 light years away from Earth or 131.06 parsecs. If you want that in miles, it is about 2,512,935,988,274,797.77, based on 1 Ly = 5,878,625,373,183.61 miles.

In 2007, Hipparcos data was revised with a new parallax of 6.55000 which put Betelgeuse at a distance of 497.96 light years or 152.67 parsecs. It should not be taken as though the star is moving closer or further away from us. It is purely that the distance was recalculated.

Using the 2007 distance, the star is roughly 31,490,228.54 Astronomical Units from the Earth/Sun give or take a few. An Astronomical Unit is the distance between Earth and the Sun. The number of A.U. is the number of times that the star is from the Earth compared to the Sun. The star's Galacto-Centric Distance is 7,539.00 Parsecs or 24,589.45 Light Years. The Galacto-Centric Distance is the distance from the star to the Centre of the Galaxy which is Sagittarius A*.

Travel Time to Betelgeuse

The time it will take to travel to this star is dependent on how fast you are going. U.G. has done some calculations as to how long it will take going at differing speeds. A note about the calculations, when I'm talking about years, I'm talking non-leap years only (365 days).

The New Horizons space probe is the fastest probe that we've sent into space at the time of writing. Its primary mission was to visit Pluto which at the time of launch (2006), Pluto was still a planet.

DescriptionSpeed (m.p.h.)Time (years)
Airbus A380736453,723,174.70
Speed of Sound (Mach 1)767.269435,232,306.50
Concorde (Mach 2)1,534.54217,615,869.63
New Horizons Probe33,00010,119,401.71
Speed of Light670,616,629.00497.96

Variable Type of Betelgeuse

The star is a pulsating Slow Irregular variable type which means that its size changes over time. The Variable Type is usually named after the first star of that type to be spotted. Betelgeuse brightness ranges from a magnitude of 0.624 to a magnitude of 0.330 over its variable period. The smaller the magnitude, the brighter the star. Its variable/pulsating period lasts for 0.2 days (variability).

Source of Information

The source of the information if it has a Hip I.D. is from Simbad, the Hipparcos data library based at the University at Strasbourg, France. Hipparcos was a E.S.A. satellite operation launched in 1989 for four years. The items in red are values that I've calculated so they could well be wrong. Information regarding Metallicity and/or Mass is from the E.U. Exoplanets. The information was obtained as of 12th Feb 2017.

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Additional Betelgeuse Facts and Figures

Visual Facts

Primary / Proper / Traditional NameBetelgeuse
Alternative NamesAlpha Orionis, Alf Ori, Yad al-Jauza', HD 39801, HIP 27989, HR 2061, 58 Orionis, 58 Ori, BD+07 1055, alf Ori
Spectral TypeM2Ib
Constellation's Main StarYes
Multiple Star SystemNo / Unknown
Star Type very luminous Supergiant Star less luminour Supergiant Star
GalaxyMilky Way
Absolute Magnitude -5.14 / -5.47
Visual / Apparent Magnitude0.45
Naked Eye VisibleYes - Magnitudes
Right Ascension (R.A.)05h 55m 10.29
Declination (Dec.)+07° 24` 25.3
Galactic Latitude-8.95867751 degrees
Galactic Longitude199.78722164 degrees
1997 Distance from Earth7.63000 Parallax (milliarcseconds)
 427.47 Light Years
 131.06 Parsecs
2007 Distance from Earth6.55000 Parallax (milliarcseconds)
 497.96 Light Years
 152.67 Parsecs
 31,490,228.54 Astronomical Units
Galacto-Centric Distance24,589.45 Light Years / 7,539.00 Parsecs
Proper Motion Dec.11.30000 ± 0.58000 milliarcseconds/year
Proper Motion RA.27.54000 ± 0.83000 milliarcseconds/year
B-V Index1.5
Radial Velocity21.91000 ± 0.51 km/s
Iron Abundance0.0900 ± 9.99 Fe/H
Semi-Major Axis8093.0000000
Stellar Luminosity (Lsun)36554.4200000
Brightest in Night Sky10th

Companions (Multi-Star and Exoplanets) Facts

Exoplanet CountNone/Unaware

Variable Star Details

Variable Star ClassPulsating
Variable Star TypeSlow Irregular
Mean Variability Period in Days0.230
Variable Magnitude Range (Brighter - Dimmer)0.330 - 0.624

Estimated Calculated Facts

Radius (x the Sun)887.00 (684.00 - 1,090.00)
Effective Temperature4,014 Kelvin
Mass Compared to the Sun4.97

Sources and Links

SIMBAD SourceLink

Multi-Star System

The star has been identified as being a multi-star system, one in which there is at least one star in close orbit to another star or two or more stars orbiting a central point. The stars may be of equal mass, unequal mass where one star is stronger than the other or be in groups orbiting a central point which doesn't necessarily have to be a star. More information can be found on my dedicated multiple star systems page. The source of the info is Simbad. The file is dated 2000 so any differences between this and any other source will be down to the actual source from where the information came from.

Proper Motion mas/yr
H.D. IdB.D. IdStar CodeMagnitudeR.A.Dec.SpectrumColourYear
39801+07 1055.0A0.9000026.0000010.00000M1Red

Location of Betelgeuse in Orion

Betelgeuse Location in Orion

The map was generated using Night Vision, an awesome free application by Brian Simpson.

Orion Main Stars

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