Looking Up: Foolproof

Apr 1, 2019

Crop of "Canis Major, Lepus, Columba Noachi & Cela Sculptoris", plate 30 in Urania's Mirror, a set of celestial cards accompanied by A familiar treatise on astronomy ... by Jehoshaphat Aspin. London.
Credit public domain / wikimedia commons

A new month is upon us, and Hal, our stellar court jester, makes a valiant attempt at a little bit of astronomical humor on this edition of Looking Up.

Winter is slowly slipping away, and so I’d like talk with you about one star soon to disappear in the west, the winter star Aludra, in the constellation of Canis Major, the big dog.

That’s because this star will explode tonight, and the Earth will be destroyed! April Fool! Ok, that was a pretty weak joke, but Aludra is still kind of cool.

For reasons not fully understood, Aludra was named “the virgin” in spite of being part of dog, constellation-wise. It’s also a baby star, perhaps only 12 M years or so. But it’s an unruly baby – glowing with a light brighter than 66,000 Suns, and it is estimated to be nearly 50 times bigger than our puny Sun. It’s already burned through its entire supply of hydrogen, and it’s expanding, perhaps to become a red super-giant star, or maybe it’s already past the super red giant phase, we can’t tell! And its fate? Well, if you plan to vacation near Aludra, please visit soon, astronomically speaking, because it will blow up into a super nova in the next few million years. And if it happens to blow up and appear brighter than a full moon in our sky tonight, well, that’s no April fool!

If you’d like to take a closer look at Aludra or any of the wonderful and amazing things in the sky, please visit csastro.org for a link to information on our monthly meetings and our free public star parties.