Beta Orionis (Rigel)

β Orionis
Beta Orionis (Rigel) is Orion's left foot or leg and in fact the name ‘Rigel’ means ‘Left Leg’. Rigel is the brightest star in the constellation.

The star is a supergiant about 50 times the radius of the Sun and its luminosity, one of the greatest in our galaxy, is measured at 57,000 times the Sun. For many years the distance was disputed, with Burnham citing the (then) current believe that Rigel was about 540 light years away. Several decades later the Hipparcos data extended that figure nearly by half to 773 light years. Although some references give even more, i.e. the Encyclopaedia Britannica indicates 870 light years.

The star is a binary (Struve 668), a blue primary and a white companion south-southwest; AB-C: 0.3, 6.8; 204º, 9.3".

Beta (B) is a spectroscopic binary, two main-sequence white stars orbiting each other every 9.8 days.

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