Rigel (rĪˈjəl) [key], bright star in the constellation Orion; Bayer designation Beta Orionis; 1992 position R.A. 5h14.2m, Dec. - 8°13−. A huge, blue supergiant of spectral class B8 Ia, Rigel has an intrinsic brightness about 40,000 times as luminous as that of the sun. It is an irregular variable star, with apparent magnitude ranging from 0.08 to 0.20, making it normally the seventh-brightest star in the sky. Its distance from the earth is nearly 1,000 light-years. Rigel is actually a four-star system consisting of a visual binary star, each component of which is itself a spectroscopic binary. Its name is from the Arabic word meaning "foot," indicating its position in the constellation.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.