The Twin Supergiants: Alpha and Beta Centauri

Topics: Star, Sun, Apparent magnitude Pages: 2 (797 words) Published: May 15, 2005
Hadar, also known as Beta Centauri, is the 10th brightest stars (11th as viewed from Earth). Hadar is a blue-white super giant in the constellation Centaurus (Cen). In about 4,000 years, the motion of Alpha Centauri, who's proper name is Rigel Kentaurus, will carry it close enough to Hadar that they will appear to be a magnificent double star. Because of the distance away from Earth that Alpha and Beta Centauri are (approximately 90 parsecs), they will be an optical double. As they sit today, the two stars look like a pair of eyes, the right one being Hadar and the left being Rigel Kentaurus. These two stars are considered pointer stars. A "pointer star" is a star that points towards the Southern Cross. Some of the Australian aboriginals call this pair "The two men that once were lions". Other aboriginals consider them to be the twins that created the world." Hadar is a proper name of unknown meaning, and has been paired with the name "Wezen," the two applied to the two bright stars in Centaurus as well as to stars in Columba, "Wezen" now commonly used for Delta Canis Majoris. Hadar, less often known as Agena (from the "knee" of the Centaur), is quite the magnificent star.

At a distance of 525 light years, blue class B (B1) Hadar is 130 times farther away than Rigel Kentaurus, and is bright because it is truly and very generously luminous, shining (accounting for the ultraviolet radiated from the 25,500-Kelvin surface) 112,000 times more brightly than the Sun. Hadar, however, is not one star, but two. Sophisticated observations that rely on the interference properties of light show that the single point of light actually consists of a pair of nearly identical stars each some 55,000 times more luminous than the Sun separated (from our perspective) by only 2.5 astronomical units. The temperature and luminosity show each to contain 15 solar masses. Spectra suggest an orbital period of not quite a year, this and the masses rendering them an actual 3 astronomical...
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