A Giant Star Is Dimming, Which Could Be a Sign It Is About to Explode
by Katherine J. Wu/Smithsonianmag.com
A long time ago in a constellation not that far away, a bright star rapidly dimmed—and 600 years later, astronomers detected the change on Earth.
The star Betelgeuse comprises the shoulder of the constellation Orion, and its abrupt change in brightness hints that it may be on the brink of death. If this star is indeed at the end of its life, it will not go gently into that good night. Before Betelgeuse blips out for good, it will explode in a supernova—a violent stellar cataclysm that could outshine the moon and make it visible even in daylight, reports Deborah Byrd for EarthSky.
The chances of this stellar explosion happening anytime soon are pretty low, says Jackie Faherty, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History, on Twitter. But the star’s recent spate of symptoms has prompted some speculation. Once among the ten brightest stars in the sky, Betelgeuse has grown progressively dimmer since October, dropping out of even the top 20, reports Nadia Drake for National Geographic. A supernova, some say, could be nigh.
The star’s brightness has flickered before. Betelgeuse is a red supergiant about 700 times as wide as the sun, positioned about about 600 light-years from Earth.