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Space & Astronomy

Is the star Betelgeuse about to go supernova ?

By T.K. Randall
December 24, 2019 · Comment icon 25 comments

A supernova so close would be quite spectacular. Image Credit: CC BY 4.0 ESO/M. Kornmesser
One of the brightest stars in the night sky is exhibiting signs that its explosive demise might not be far away.
The red supergiant, which can be found in the constellation Orion, has been going through periods of dimming and brightening for thousands of years however a particularly notable and recent period of low intensity has been piquing the interest of astronomers who have speculated that it could be an indication that the star is about to go supernova.

Such an event, when it does happen, could make Betelgeuse appear so bright in the sky that it would be like a second sun - albeit for a period of only a few weeks.

Situated around 700 light years away, the star has long been expected to go supernova at some point however there is much uncertainty over exactly how long it will be before this happens.

Even if the recent reduction in intensity is an indication of this, it could still take thousands of years.
"Stars in the later phases of their life go through a lot of variability that we can't fully explain yet... It probably still has tens of thousands of years, if not 100,000 (left)," wrote astronomer Yvette Cendes of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

One astrophysicist - Matthew Buckley of Rutgers University - has even made the tongue-in-cheek suggestion that the dimming could be due to the construction of a Dyson sphere.

"Weird how everyone is wondering if Betelgeuse dimming means it is going supernova (sadly, unlikely), but no one is asking the real question: is its dimming a sign that someone is finishing a Dyson sphere around it ?" he wrote.

The concept of a Dyson Sphere was originally proposed over 50 years ago by physicist Freeman Dyson who suggested the possibility that a sufficiently advanced extraterrestrial race may be able to surround a star with a huge spherical structure and then live on the inside of the sphere.

Suffice to say however that it is unlikely to the extreme that this is what's happening with Betelgeuse.

Source: CNET.com | Comments (25)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #16 Posted by Skulduggery 5 years ago
I have been up on the Betelgeuse knowledge since about 2011 or so. Most places I’ve looked on the internet—scientific resources—say we are clear. Although I do suspect there may be a kernel of truth in the sensationalism of it that has been going around for quite some time. There may be some type of effect. 
Comment icon #17 Posted by DreadLordAvatar 5 years ago
If we do get to see it, then the explosion happened 700 years ago.
Comment icon #18 Posted by Aardvark-DK 5 years ago
Darn....Ford Prefect looses his home planet...
Comment icon #19 Posted by fred_mc 5 years ago
Why are they talking about a Dyson sphere? It would be really stupid aliens if they try to build a Dyson sphere around a dying giant star that is giving off huge deadly flares as a part of the death process.
Comment icon #20 Posted by psyche101 5 years ago
Well that's disappointing. I was expecting a Tatooine situation. I was going to wait until it happens before I pass on. Don't think I'll bother waiting now.
Comment icon #21 Posted by psyche101 5 years ago
To be fair, the article does say that is an extremely unlikely option.
Comment icon #22 Posted by Jon the frog 5 years ago
In astronomical term, ''about to go supernova'' mean it is probably in the next million of years...
Comment icon #23 Posted by L.A.T.1961 5 years ago
Astronomers Detect a Burst of Gravitational Waves From The Direction of Betelgeuse. https://www.sciencealert.com/astronomers-detected-weird-gravitational-waves-from-the-direction-of-betelgeuse   Betelgeuse continues to dim, diminishes to 1.506 magnitude. https://phys.org/news/2020-01-betelgeuse-dim-diminishes-magnitude.html http://www.astronomerstelegram.org/?read=13410  
Comment icon #24 Posted by Desertrat56 5 years ago
If it is 500 - 700 light years away it may already have gone supernova.  What we see happened 500 - 700 years ago.
Comment icon #25 Posted by joc 5 years ago
Betelgeuse is 642.5 light years away according to Google. The radius of Betelgeuse   =   617 million km   or   383 million miles  The radius of the Sun         =   696,347  km      or   432,690 miles The radius of the Earth       =  3,959 miles Roughly....   4 Billion miles  vs    .5 Million miles   I also thought this was interesting:           

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