2020's Best Weekend for Stargazing Is Days Away — Here's What to Look Out For

How to Find Betelgeuse and Orion’s Belt

While you’re out stargazing at brilliant Venus, the crescent moon, and the sparking star clusters, shift your eyes to the left, and you’ll see the unmistakable sight of the three stars — Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka — that together make Orion’s Belt. Directly above them is red supergiant star Betelgeuse, which has been in the news a lot lately. Normally the 10th brightest star in the night sky, Betelgeuse has been visibly dimming since Christmas, and it is currently about a third of its usual brightness. It’s known that Betelgeuse will one day go supernova and explode, becoming as bright as a full moon for weeks or months on end. In fact, astronomers know that this will definitely happen… sometime in the next 100,000 years. Astronomically speaking, that’s any day now!

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Betelgeuse Might Explode Soon

Could the dimming be an early sign of something dramatic? If Betelgeuse does go supernova, it will be the celestial sight of the century, though since the star is 642 light years away, it may have already happened. If so, we’ll see it soon, but let’s hope it happens in winter when Orion is above the horizon at night.

Meanwhile, make do with the arresting sight of a bright planet and a delicate crescent moon passing close to a couple of sparking star clusters — truly a jewel of 2020’s fast-disappearing winter night sky.

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