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Content We Love – The “Magnitude” of a Press Release

By Niphon Goodyear 

The magnitude of the events that happened this year will not be forgotten for some time and so this edition of Content We Love will center on the magnitude of two stars: our Sun and Betelgeuse (參宿四), and how this can be related to press releases.

Content We Love – The “Magnitude” of a Press Release

Photo of the Orion Constellation with Sirius (not part of the constellation) dominating the lower left quadrant of the photo

To find Betelgeuse in the night sky, one needs only to find the Orion constellation. This constellation, one of the easiest to identify, is remarkable in not only its appearance but also in what it contains. As viewed naturally in the night sky[1], the “right foot” of Orion is Rigel (參宿七), the sword contains the Orion Nebula and Orion’s “left shoulder” is the star Betelgeuse, one of the most well-known stars in the night sky. Gazing intently at the Orion constellation, one often notices the three stars in its belt. Those three stars (the “leftmost” star is actually a star system while the “rightmost” is actually a double star) which look upon first glance to be about the same in brightness are actually vastly different in distance from Earth, providing an example of how absolute magnitude and apparent magnitude differ.

What exactly are absolute and apparent magnitude?

  • Absolute magnitude is the magnitude of an object when placed 10 parsecs (1 parsec is 3.26 light years) away from the Earth.
  • Apparent magnitude is the apparent brightness of an object as viewed from Earth (maybe one day we’ll have a new term such as Apparent Proxima Centauri b[2] magnitude if we ever get there)

For example, our sun, which is tiny compared to Betelgeuse, has an apparent magnitude of -26.74[3] since we are only 1 astronomical unit away. But, its absolute magnitude is merely positive 1.3 meaning that due to being so close to the sun, observers on Earth see it as being much brighter than someone faraway such as a space traveler marooned on one of Neptune’s moons would. An example of how dim the sun would appear to that poor observer can be explained via the inverse square law, which roughly states that the brightness of an object is in relation to the square of its distance. Therefore, Neptune, which is 30 times farther from the sun than the Earth is, would see a sun 1/30th the size it is in Earths sky with light 1/900th as bright.

Magnitude and Press Releases

For the purpose of this blog, let’s say that any press release has the potential to go viral which in astronomy would be equivalent to a star going supernova. Let’s continue with this assumption by designating a MNR with all the key elements for success as being equal in absolute brightness and size to Betelgeuse. Betelgeuse a star, much younger than the Sun, is at the end of its lifespan and is expected to go supernova anywhere from tomorrow to one million years from now. When it goes supernova, its magnitude will be roughly -17, making it the brightest object in the night sky, outshining even the moon. This relates to the abovementioned MNR in that if a press release goes viral, it will behave much like a supernova, outshining other press releases and resulting in an almost unfathomable amount of views.

How can we ensure that the magnitude of a press release makes it easily observable i.e, help achieve the best press release performance possible?

Check out one of my previous blog posts to learn more about the exact elements needed and what they can do for you!

And that concludes this edition of Content We Love! Have a wonderful holiday season and a great start to 2017!

More Orion photos available at


  1. Positions as written in the blog are for the convenience of readers and are from the point of view of observers on Earth who are trying to find the objects without additional material and/or equipment. 
  2. Proxima Centauri is the closest star to the Sun. Proxima Centauri b is the name of an exoplanet orbiting that star.
  3. The lower the magnitude, the brighter the object (magnitude can also be used to describe comets and moons etc.)