Betelgeuse is a massive red supergiant located in the constellation Orion.
Betelgeuse is a several million year old red supergiant located in the constellation Orion. It is massive — about 15-20 times the mass of our Sun (15-20 solar masses) — and as such it is near the end of its life. Red giants are very large objects and Betelgeuse is about 900 times the size of the Sun. Due to its large mass, it will likely explode as a supernova within the next 100,000 years. Betelgeuse’s surface is vigorously bubbling, suggesting significant mass loss and strong stellar wind, in addition to a giant plume the size of our Solar System that pumps material into space.
Schematic comparison (not to scale) of several important stars: the massive red giant Betelgeuse, the red supergiant Antares in the constellation Scorpius with 11-16 solar masses, the 20 solar mass blue-white dwarf star Rigel, also in Orion, the 1 solar mass red giant Aldebaran in Taurus, and finally the Sun, a small yellow dwarf star, also of 1 solar mass. Credit: Aliona Ursu/Shutterstock
In this long exposure image, thousands of stars in our Milky Way Galaxy can be seen in the background behind Betelgeuse. Also visible is dark dust from the Orion Molecular Cloud, and some red-glowing emission from hydrogen gas.
Credit: Adam Block, Steward Observatory, University of Arizona