Meissa – Lambda Orionis

One of the hottest stars

Video version of the story at the very end

According to Jim Keiller, professor emeritus of astronomy at the University of Illinois who has written numerous stellar reviews, Lambda Orionis is one of the dimmest stars to have its own name. This is an interesting remark, behind which, in fact, lies a lot of reservations.

Firstly, there are many stars that are even weaker, nevertheless having their own and much more popular names than the one associated with the star Lambda Orion, because – you will agree – you probably did not know him before reading this story ?! Recall at least Alkor – a rider riding a “horse” – Mizar – in the “handle” of the Big Dipper Bucket. Or any of the seven sisters in the Pleiades – they are all weaker and more famous.

Secondly, the name that Lambda Oriona now bears did not originally belong to her. At the dawn of European astronomy, scientists simply borrowed the names of stars from Arabic astronomy. And they often confused a star or its name with the name of another star. This is how the name “Meissa” was “stolen” from the Gemini Gamma nearby. Translated from Arabic, “Meissa” means luminous, but this meaning is equally well suited to one and the other star. And the original name of Lambda Orion – “Heka” means something different and special – literally “White Spot”, moreover, not an abstract spot, but a spot in the color of a black sheep.

There is a belief that in most cultures the name of the constellations, and the outlines themselves, the stars included in them, coincide. This is not true. The imagination of the ancient Arabs in this area of ​​u200bu200bthe sky did not draw the greatest hunter of all time, but the Sheep.

Now live with it.

No less original were the ancient Indians, who called Lambda Orion “Mrigashira”. And this word is translated, either as “Searching”, or as “Deer’s head”.

And the Chinese astronomers had a huge celestial turtle here. And Lambda Oriona symbolized her beak.

“What happened to Gamma Gemini?” – Was she left completely without a name, after her name migrated to Orion’s Lambda?

– No, now Gamma Gemini has a different name – “Alhena”. But we’ll talk about it, somehow, next time.

At the end of the description of this confusion with star names, I will inform you that Lambda Orion also lost its original name – “Heka” – it now belongs to the even weaker star Phi Orion, which is close to it, which we will have to talk about in this story.

Lambda Orionis, although not a very bright, but very noticeable star. The asterism located in its vicinity, which is called “Lambda Orion Asterism”, adds to its visibility, but sometimes the name “Turtle Beak” is also mentioned, drawn from the Chinese tradition, in which the stars surrounding Lambda Orion were called nothing more than “Second Star of the Turtle Beak”. ”, “The third star of the turtle beak” …

Many years ago, I really enjoyed looking at this star formation through binoculars. And it really is a spectacular sight. But the stars included in this asterism, for the most part, are not physically connected with each other.

A bit sorry…

If you look closely at fainter stars, you can see the open star cluster “Collinder 69” – this is already a physically connected group of stars. All of them are located at approximately the same distance from us, have almost the same age, a common origin. And this cluster is headed just by Meissa – Lambda Orion – the only more or less bright star. The second violin in this small stellar orchestra is played by the same Heka – Phi Oriona, which I have already mentioned. The rest of the stars are quite faint – not visible to the eye.

The cluster “Collinder 69” has an age of about 5 million years. The same age as Lambda Orion. The meaning of this time value is different for each star. And what is infancy for one star may turn out to be quite a mature age for another. Surely, the latter has to do with the star in question.

Lambda Orionis is quite massive and hot. This is a blue giant, spectral class O, exceeding the Sun in mass by 25 times, in luminosity – by 65 thousand times. Meissa’s surface temperature is estimated at 35,000°K, making it one of the hottest stars known to astronomers. This star has a companion – Meissa B – it is not difficult to see it even in a small telescope – the angular distance between the components of the binary system is slightly more than 4 seconds of arc. The companion star is somewhat weaker. If the main star in this system is 3rd magnitude, then the companion is two magnitudes dimmer. The surface temperature of Meissa B is “only” 27,000 °K, and it is also a blue star, albeit of spectral type B. Stars of spectral type B are sometimes described as blue-white. But when you look at this pair of stars through a telescope, the difference between their shades – blue and bluish – sometimes provokes some illusion of color perception, due to which the fainter star appears greenish.

At some – more respectful distance – astronomers discovered another satellite of Lambda Orion – Meissa C – a yellowish star of spectral class F, in many ways similar to the Sun, which, in turn, has an even more modest satellite – a brown dwarf – a very dim and cool star .

It is amazing what diversity can be present in only one system of four stars.

Like most bright blue stars in the constellation Orion, Meissa and her companions are 1,000 light-years away from us, born about 5 million years ago from a huge gas cloud that we now call the Orion Nebula. The most noticeable part of the nebula is visible with binoculars, a pipe or a small telescope (and even just with the eye) in the southern part of the constellation. It may seem that the nebula is very far from Orion’s Lambda. But in photographs taken with a very long exposure, it is clear that this nebula envelops the entire constellation of Orion, and even the constellations surrounding it get it.

It can be seen that in the vast space shrouded in the Orion Nebula, there are more dense clouds of hydrogen, and less dense gaps. Meissa, just, is located in a zone of increased concentration of hydrogen – the formation of new stars is taking place here – literally – stars that will soon shine in this constellation. True, it is worth mentioning that the “soon time” for stars and for people is completely different times.

And in these pictures, another nebula is noticeable – “Orion’s Lambda Ring” – and this is already the remnant of a dead star – a discarded gaseous shell of an exploded supernova. The cataclysm occurred, according to scientists, about one million years ago. In a few million years, Meissa will leave another similar ring here, because a similar fate awaits her ahead – Orion’s Lambda will explode in a supernova, some of its matter will be thrown off and shine with a beautiful nebula, and the core of the star will shrink into a black hole, and become a bridge between our Universe, and other universes located in other dimensions… although the latter is nothing more than a bold guess about what black holes really are and what is their meaning for our World.

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