The Milky Way

I look for a red giant tonight.

A star late in its stellar evolution.

In a cloud that’s not a cloud.

How old we are. How we want

a supernova ending. How difficult is dying.

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This Cold January Night

Sirius is looking straight up at Orion,

wondering why he’s not in the hunt.

He wants to run the ice and snow.

He wants to please the heroic hunter,

and leave this underworld above the Earth.

 

Cassiopeia the Queen

Beautiful, yes, but also arrogant and vain,

boasting that she and her daughter Andromeda

were more beautiful than the Nereids nymph-daughters.

Tonight, the Lady of the Chair reigns

not over Ethiopia but the North Star.

 

Cassiopea

Poseidon’s punishment to Cassiopea for saying she and Andromeda were more beautiful than the nymph-daughters of the sea god Nereus was for her to be put in a constellation sitting in the heavens tied to a chair. (from Hyginus, Poeticon Astronomicon. “U.S. Naval Observatory Library”)

Orion’s Knee

orion photo

 

Orion’s belt is three sparkling blue-white stars.

I still can’t see the constellating images

of the ancients, but for that belt.

His shield a vague curve, his knee,

Rigel, blue supergiant anonymously leading his lunge.

 

orion diagram

orion shield



Orion’s two brightest stars – Betelgeuse and Rigel – are about at an equal distance above and below Orion’s Belt. Betelgeuse achieved popular fame in the misspelled Beetlejuice film character, but Rigel is pretty much unknown.
So, here’s to Rigel, who despite being 775 light-years away (which none of us can really grasp) shines very brightly. What a star you must be! If you were as close as our sun, you would outshine it by 40,000 times!
Rigel is blue-white because of its surface temperature. Rigel is hot (over 10,000 K) and still a youthful star. The more famous Betelgeuse is a red star – “cool” (only 2,000 to 3,500 Kelvin) and already in his autumn years.