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Montana Skies: Pegasus

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This week's Montana Skies looks just near the moon at the constellation Pegasus and what lies in the future for one of its brightest stars.

Tonight, the action is up in the eastern sky – where you can find the mighty planet Jupiter shining fantastically bright as it rises up almost due east. Even more stunning is our big, beautiful waxing gibbous moon up in the southeast. Each day this week the moon will move farther down and east, until we have a full Moon on Tuesday and then it will pass right by Jupiter late next week.

If you look carefully tonight, and maybe even cover up the moon with your hand, you can see the constellation Pegasus the flying horse to the upper left of the Moon. The body of Pegasus is represented by a big square of stars. Here in Montana, Pegasus is flying upside down, so the legs of Pegasus extend up above the square, and over to the left. Off to the right, the bright star Enif represents the head of the horse, almost directly above the moon.

There's a huge mystery about Enif and what will happen to this crazy star. Enif is a huge, old orange supergiant star – about 10 times more massive than our Sun. The mystery of Enif, is what will happen to it when it dies. You see, stars die in one of two ways:  Most stars, like our Sun, will slowly fade away until just a faint white dwarf star is left. However, a really big and massive star will explode as a supernova, spreading its guts out into the universe, where its atoms can be recycled into the next generation of stars. 

So, is Enif big enough to explode?  So far, our mathematical calculations aren't precise enough to tell. For now, the future of Enif remains a mystery.

So step outside tonight, and look east at Jupiter, the Moon, and mysterious Enif – up in our beautiful Montana Skies!

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