Rigel, or Beta Orionis, a bright star in the southwest corner of the constellation Orion. Rigel is a supergiant and one of the brightest stars known. In absolute magnitude it is some 50,000 times brighter than the sun. Although Rigel is a young star, it is using up its supply of hydrogen fuel at such a rapid rate that it will burn itself out in a few million years. Rigel is about 800 light-years distant from the earth.
When a huge star collapses, it releases massive amounts of radiation in concentrated streams. If one of those streams hit Earth, it wouldn't be pretty. But where should we put "gamma-ray bursts" on our list of anxieties?
A look at the night sky at any time of year will reveal a faint band of light stretching across the sky -- our solar system's home, the Milky Way. How much do we really know about it?