Betelgeuse in unprecedented faded

Betelgeuse in 13 to 17 times more massive than the Sun. Such massive stars don’t live long, and the light is now in the dying stage — the stage of a red supergiant. The star inflated, its radius is now more solar 950-1200 times. Astronomers confidently say that it is not more than ten thousand years. The exact date of the upcoming supernova explosion is difficult to call. It depends on many factors that are still not well understood, for example, the characteristics of rotation and magnetic field of the star.

In December 2019 Betelgeuse began to fade. At the moment, the Shine of lights is 36% of normal. This change is noticeable even to the naked eye.

By the way, is not the first time the star changes brightness. Its surface consists of unstable convective cells, which move and change their size. In addition, celestial body periodically changes size, pulsing like a heart. All this activity is reflected in the brilliance of Betelgeuse, but it has never faded so much as it is now.

Trying to understand what is happening with the sun, the science team led by Miguel Montage (Miguel Montarges) from the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium see the star from December 2019. The researchers used the largest optical telescope in the world — VLT.

fortunately, the same team observed Betelgeuse in January 2019, even before the darkening. Reviewing the images, the experts revealed the difference not only in brightness but also in the form of a star.

betelgeuse in unprecedented faded 1Betelgeuse before and after the tarnishing.Photo by ESO/M. Montarges et al.

Maybe such major changes implying that the explosion will happen here, in a few years, if not days? This version is seductive, but while experts do not see any proof.

“We developed two scenarios: a sharp cooling of the surface due to the exceptionally high level of stellar activity and the ejection of dust pon the direction to us, — says Montarge. — Of course, our knowledge of the red supergiants still incomplete, and research is ongoing, so surprises are still possible.”

Explain that the stars at this stage of evolution often throw clouds of dust. Such a cloud may obscure the sun, weakening it a visible Shine.

By the way, the VLT allows us to observe the star not only in optical, but in the middle infrared range. Thanks to this, astronomers can detect light emitted by a substance that does not emit visible light. Probably, future observations will help experts to understand what’s going on in Betelgeuse now.

betelgeuse in unprecedented faded 2jet Dust around Betelgeuse in the infrared range.Illustration ESO/P. Kervella/M. Montarges et al. The authors also thank Eric Pantin.

note that on the dying stage of life of massive stars astronomers still have only a very General idea. First, the massive lights are rare. Second, these stages last for some hundreds of years, so mankind should coarsely be lucky to catch an object in this state. Betelgeuse is such a gift.

we Can say that this supergiant is at the perfect distance. 700 light-years is close enough to study in detail the agony of a star in a telescope. At the same time, this distance is enough to doom luminaries does not threaten life on Earth.

of Course, this supernova would be a spectacular sight. For brightness it should be comparable with the Moon in the first quarter. But the extant x-ray and gamma radiation will be much weaker than that which the Earth receives daily from the Sun, so the world will die from radiation. And the shock wave in the interstellar gas to have even less reach.

earlier, “Conduct.Science” ( wrote that the Australian $ Yi the natives probably knew about the changes in brilliance of Betelgeuse.

Text: To.Science