Tech UPTechnologyIs the star Betelgeuse about to explode?

Is the star Betelgeuse about to explode?

Betelgeuse or HIP 27989, is a bright red supergiant star located in the constellation Orion. In fact, it used to be one of the brightest objects in our night sky, so much so that you could see it with the naked eye.

Have you noticed that Orion, one of the most iconic and familiar winter constellations, looks a bit … different lately? It’s half as intense as usual, so scientists wonder if it could implode. Betelgeuse is a pulsating variable star, which means that it changes its brightness in semi-regular cycles. The brightness of a star is known as magnitude. The magnitude scale is reversed, which means that the brighter the star, the smaller the magnitude . A star of magnitude 1 is brighter than a star of magnitude 2 and dimmer than a star of magnitude -1.

According to a recently published article by researchers at Villanova University in Pennsylvania (USA), the star has reduced its light dramatically in the last two months. Scientists say it is about 2.5 times fainter than usual and going from being the ninth brightest object in the sky to number 23.

Is the end of this red star near?

Before a star goes supernova, it loses an incredible amount of mass and expels a voluminous cloud of dust. That dust often envelops the stars, hiding them from Earth’s telescopes before they explode. So there is a possibility that the star has already exploded (it would in a Type II supernova), since light travels from Betelgeuse for about 600 years until it reaches our planet.

If it explodes (or has exploded), it would become as bright as a full moon for a few months, casting its own shadow at night, before fading into nothingness, and altering the outline of the constellation Orion forever.

Is it dangerous for us?

Any particle produced by the Betelgeuse explosion can reach the solar system in about six million years, but it would have minimal impact, since the heliosphere, the region of space under the influence of the sun that encompasses all the planets, would be powerful enough to to divert it all.

If it were in the middle of our solar system, the scenario would be completely different . Because it has a mass 12 times that of our Sun and burns so brightly that it dies after eight million years, it would engulf all the planets in our system. So we are safe from the 50 light-year ‘kill zone’ to receive any incoming lethal radiation from Betelgeuse. What it will be is a spectacular and scientifically interesting astronomical event.

Will we see it?

Who knows. Betelgeuse will explode as a supernova anytime between now and the next 100,000 years. It is really difficult to accurately expose what exactly is happening inside the giant star. For the moment, it’s time to wait and watch.

Referencia: ‘The Fainting of the Nearby Red Supergiant Betelgeuse’ by researchers at Villanova University. ATel #13341; E, F. Guinan, R. J. Wasatonic (Villanova Univ.) and T. J. Calderwood (AAVSO)

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