Looking Up: Fuelish Behavior

Feb 25, 2019

Canis Major
Credit Wellentheorie blog (https://wellentheorie.wordpress.com/) / Creative Commons Attribution – NonCommercial 4.0 International license (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Sirius may be the 'big dog' in the constellation Canis Major but Wezen can throw its 'weight' around, too, as we learn on this week's Looking Up.

Today I want to tell you about a very interesting star in the Colorado night sky right now, but be sure to lift with your knees when you look at the star Wezen. The name means, well, literally weight. Wezen is the third brightest star in the constellation of Canis Major, the big dog.

Wezen gets overlooked because the brightest star in Canis Major is Sirius, the brightest star in the entire night sky. But don’t let Wezen fool you, it’s impressive. First, it’s a baby star, only about 10 million years old. But it’s already starting to die, as it has been gobbling up its fuel at an enormous rate. And the star named weight is hefty, weighing in at about 17 times the mass of our Sun, and is as bright as 50,000 Suns. It’s so big that if we swapped our Sun for Wezen, its surface would be at roughly Earth’s orbit – a big one. And it’s doomed! It’s already out of hydrogen to burn, and is now working its way toward an ultimate fate as a super-nova, when it will collapse and explode violently, and for a few days will be brighter than all the rest of the Milky Way stars combined! So if you are looking up in about 100,000 years or so, you’ll see quite a show!  

If you’d like to take a closer look at Wezen, or any of the other 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!