Most Detailed Photo of Star Ever

Written by The Night Sky Guy on January 13, 2010 – 10:39 am -

I remember when I started out stargazing through a telescope when I was a kid and a seasoned stargazer told me to never expect to be able to zoom into any star in the sky and see detail. He told me that no matter how much power, or how big a telescope I had, it was impossible to see any detail on a star- and that it would always remain a point of light through any telescope. How things have changed…

The surface of Betelgeuse in near infrared; Copyright 2010 Haubois / Perrin (LESIA, Observatoire de Paris)

Using the technique called interferometry – where the light from different telescopes are combined into one superdetailed image (image above) - a team of astronomers has obtained for the first time a snapshot of the actual surface of a distant star outside of our solar system – the surface of the red supergiant Betelgeuse, in the constellation of Orion. The image reveals the presence of two giant bright spots, whose size is equivalent to the Earth-Sun distance: they cover a large fraction of the surface. It is a first strong and direct indication of the presence of the convection phenomenon, transport of heat by moving matter, in a star other than the Sun. This result allows us to better understand the structure and the evolution of supergiants.

Betelgeuse is a red supergiant located in the constellation of Orion. This star is quite different from our Sun: 600 times larger in dimension, it radiates approximately 100,000 times more energy.

You can easily find 430 light year distant Betelgeuse using nothing more than your unaided eyes tonight dominating the southern evening sky. It is one of the brightest stars of winterand is the lead star in seasonal landmark constellation Orion – making the hunter’s left shoulder.

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