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High quality Hubble picture, slide, or Duratrans backlit transparency. NASA photograph H96-04. Wide variety of sizes. Click to see selection as Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) - January 22, 1996
This is the first direct image of a star other than the Sun, made with NASAís Hubble Space Telescope. Called Alpha Orionis, or Betelgeuse, it is a red supergiant star marking the shoulder of the winter constellation Orion the Hunter.
The Hubble image reveals a huge ultraviolet atmosphere with a mysterious hot spot on the stellar behemothís surface. The enormous bright spot, more than ten times the diameter of Earth, is at least 2,000 Kelvin degrees hotter than the surface of the star.
The image suggests that a totally new physical phenomenon may be affecting the
atmospheres of some stars. Follow-up observations will be needed to help astronomers understand whether the spot is linked to oscillations previously detected in the giant star, or whether it moves systematically across the starís surface under the grip of powerful magnetic fields.
The image was taken in ultraviolet light with the Faint Object Camera on March 3, 1995.
Hubble can resolve the star even though the apparent size is 20,000 times smaller than the width of the full Moon ó roughly equivalent to being able to resolve a carís headlights at a distance of 6,000 miles.
Betelgeuse is so huge that, if it replaced the Sun at the center of our Solar System, its outer atmosphere would extend past the orbit of Jupiter.
January 15, 1996
Credit: Andrea Dupree (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA), Ronald Gilliland (STScI), NASA and ESA