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.
Carol graduated from Riverside White Cross School of Nursing in Columbus, Ohio and received her diploma as a registered nurse. She attended Bowling Green State University where she received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and Literature. She attended the University of Toledo, College of Nursing, and received a Master’s of Nursing Science Degree as an Educator.
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It would be a fallacy to think in terms of “any time soon” as the astrophysicist, Faherty states. If a Betelgeuse supernova is seen here on Earth anytime in the next 600 years, it will have meant the event already happened; it’s just taken that amount of time for the visible light to reach us. The “dimming” they’re witnessing happened six centuries ago.
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