How not to pronounce Betelgeuse

The giant red star you see in the constellation of Orion, which you might think of as his right shoulder (top left of the constellation) is a variable star. It brightens and dims periodically. It’s been in the news a lot recently because some astronomers think its recent unprecedented dimming might indicate that it is about to explode and become a supernova , one that we would be able to see in the sky even daylight hours. Of course, if we see it happen, then it will actually have happened some time in the Middle Ages and the light from said explosion has taken centuries to reach us.

Betelgeuse captured by ALMA

Meanwhile, the far more controversial issue is how does one pronounce the name of this star. It’s definitely not Beetle Juice, regardless of the movie title, although far too many American astronomers and pundits do pronounce it like that.

The name comes from an Arabic phrase meaning “the armpit of Orion”

إبط الجوزاء Ibṭ al-Jauzā’

That phrase is pronounced ebt-el-jowzah, roughly. The “j” is a zh sound like the G in the name Genevieve. It’s not a hard j as in June and it’s definitely not a “g” as in Gloria. Etymology does not define pronunciation, but the closer to the root we can be the better, I’d say and astronomical writer Paul Sutherland agrees with my pronunciation and if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me:

Bettle Jerrz – with that softer sounding “J”

Oh, and one more thing, despite all the hyperbole about Betelgeuse, Sutherland points out that by definition it’s a variable star and they vary, sometimes a lot.

Meanwhile, another thing, check out my photography guide on taking snaps of the stars, including one about Orion’s Sword and the Orion Nebula.

Author: bob投注平台

Award-winning freelance science writer, author of Deceived Wisdom. Sharp-shooting photographer and wannabe rockstar.