Alnitak (in lower right corner) and the Flame Nebula
Epoch J2000 Equinox J2000
|Right ascension||05h 40m 45.52666s|
|Declination||−01° 56′ 34.2649″|
|Apparent magnitude (V)||1.77 (2.08 + 4.28 + 4.01)|
|Spectral type||O9.5Iab + B1IV + B0III|
|U−B color index||−1.06|
|B−V color index||−0.11 (A)|
|Radial velocity (Rv)||18.50 km/s|
|Proper motion (μ)|| RA: 3.19 mas/yr |
Dec.: 2.03 mas/yr
|Parallax (π)||4.43 ± 0.64 mas|
|Distance||1,260 ± 180 ly |
(387 ± 54 pc)
|Absolute magnitude (MV)||−6.0 / −3.9 / −4.1|
|Period (P)||2687.3 ± 7.0 d|
|Semi-major axis (a)||35.9 ± 0.2 m|
|Eccentricity (e)||0.338 ± 0.004|
|Inclination (i)||139.3 ± 0.6°|
|Longitude of the node (Ω)||83.8 ± 0.8°|
|Periastron epoch (T)||JD 2452734.2 ± 9.0|
|Argument of periastron (ω)|
|204.2 ± 1.2°|
|Period (P)||1508.6 yr|
|Semi-major axis (a)||2.728″|
|Longitude of the node (Ω)||155.5°|
|Periastron epoch (T)||2070.6|
|Argument of periastron (ω)|
|Mass||33 ± 10 M☉|
|Radius||20.0 ± 3.2 R☉|
|Surface gravity (log g)||3.2 ± 0.1 cgs|
|Temperature||29,500 ± 1000 K|
|Rotational velocity (v sin i)||110 ± 10 km/s|
|Mass||14 ± 3 M☉|
|Radius||7.3 ± 1.0 R☉|
|Rotational velocity (v sin i)||350 km/s|
|A: HR 1948, HD 37742|
|B: HR 1949, HD 37743|
Alnitak, designated Zeta Orionis (ζ Orionis, abbreviated Zeta Ori, ζ Ori) and 50 Orionis (50 Ori), is a multiple star several hundred parsecs from the Sun in the constellation of Orion. It is one of the three main stars of Orion's Belt along with Alnilam and Mintaka.
The primary star is a hot blue supergiant with an absolute magnitude of -6.0 and is the brightest class O star in the night sky with a visual magnitude of +2.0. It has two bluish 4th magnitude companions, one finely resolved and one only detected interferometrically and spectroscopically, producing a combined magnitude for the trio of +1.77. The stars are members of the Orion OB1 association and the Collinder 70 association.
Alnitak has been known since antiquity and, as a component of Orion's belt, has been of widespread cultural significance. It was reported to be a double star by amateur German astronomer George K. Kunowsky in 1819. Much more recently, in 1998, the bright primary was found by a team from the Lowell Observatory to have a close companion; this had been suspected from observations made with the Narrabri Stellar Intensity Interferometer in the 1970s.
The stellar parallax derived from observations by the Hipparcos satellite imply a distance around 225 parsecs, but this does not take into account distortions caused by the multiple nature of the system and larger distances have been derived by many authors.
Alnitak is a triple star system at the eastern end of Orion's belt, the second magnitude primary having a 4th magnitude companion nearly 3 arc-seconds distant, in an orbit taking over 1,500 years.
The primary (Alnitak A) is itself a close binary, comprising Alnitak Aa (a blue supergiant of spectral type O9.5Iab with an absolute magnitude of -6.0 and an apparent magnitude of 2.0) and Alnitak Ab (a blue sub-giant of spectral type B1IV with an absolute magnitude of -3.9 and an apparent magnitude of 4.3, discovered in 1998.). Aa is estimated as being up to 33 times as massive as the Sun and to have a diameter 20 times greater. It is some 21,000 times brighter than the sun, with a surface brightness (luminance) some 500 times greater. It is the brightest star of class O in the night sky.
A fourth star, 9th magnitude Alnitak C, has not been confirmed to be part of the Aa-Ab-B group, and may simply lie along the line of sight.
The Alnitak system is bathed in the nebulosity of IC 434.
Etymology and cultural significance
The traditional name Alnitak, alternately spelled Al Nitak or Alnitah, is taken from the Arabic النطاق an-niṭāq, "the girdle". In 2016, the International Astronomical Union organized a Working Group on Star Names (WGSN) to catalog and standardize proper names for stars. The WGSN's first bulletin of July 2016 included a table of the first two batches of names approved by the WGSN; which included Alnitak for this star. It is now so entered in the IAU Catalog of Star Names.
The three belt stars were collectively known by many names in many cultures. Arabic terms include النجاد Al Nijād 'the Belt', النسك Al Nasak 'the Line', العلقات Al Alkāt 'the Golden Grains or Nuts' and, in modern Arabic, ميزان الحق Al Mīzān al Ḥaqq 'the Accurate Scale Beam'. In Chinese mythology they were known as The Weighing Beam.
The belt was also the Three Stars mansion (simplified Chinese: 参宿; traditional Chinese: 參宿; pinyin: Shēn Xiù), one of the Twenty-eight mansions of the Chinese constellations. It is one of the western mansions of the White Tiger.
In Chinese, 參宿 (Shēn Sù), meaning Three Stars (asterism), refers to an asterism consisting of Alnitak, Alnilam, Mintaka (Orion's Belt) with Betelgeuse, Bellatrix, Saiph and Rigel Consequently, Alnitak are known as 參宿一 (Shēn Sù yī, English: the First Star of Three Stars).. It is one of the western mansions of the White Tiger.
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- "Sixth Catalog of Orbits of Visual Binary Stars". United States Naval Observatory. Retrieved 15 May 2017.
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- Richard Hinckley Allen, Star-names and their meanings (1936), p. 314-15.
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- "IAU Working Group on Star Names (WGSN)". Retrieved 22 May 2016.
- "Bulletin of the IAU Working Group on Star Names, No. 1" (PDF). Retrieved 28 July 2016.
- "IAU Catalog of Star Names". Retrieved 28 July 2016.
- (in Chinese) 中國星座神話, written by 陳久金. Published by 台灣書房出版有限公司, 2005, ISBN 978-986-7332-25-7.
- (in Chinese) AEEA (Activities of Exhibition and Education in Astronomy) 天文教育資訊網 2006 年 5 月 25 日
- "Alnitak 3". SolStation. Retrieved 2005-12-15.
- NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day: Image of Alnitak (12 January 2010)
- Alnitak on WikiSky: DSS2, SDSS, GALEX, IRAS, Hydrogen α, X-Ray, Astrophoto, Sky Map, Articles and images