Massive red supergiant Betelgeuse has been losing its sparkle, which has led many scientists to wonder: Is one of the sky’s brightest stars headed toward its demise by way of supernova explosion?
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Betelgeuse, often pronounced like Tim Burton’s “Beetlejuice,” is dimming at an unprecedented rate. While the star is known for its erratic behavior, shrinking then expanding and dimming then flaring on a semi-regular basis, Betelgeuse’s recent behavior has been stranger than normal.
According to recent reports, Betelgeuse has cooled by roughly 100 Kelvin since September 2019 and is now hovering around an apparent magnitude of over 1.6, a significant drop from its average range of 0.4 to 1.2 magnitudes of brightness.
In fact, the supergiant star has now been demoted to roughly the 21st brightest star in the night sky, which is the faintest Betelgeuse has been in at least a century.
And that’s not all—other strange things are also happening to the star. For one, it’s shedding quite a lot of mass, but instead of generating lots of heat like scientists would assume, it’s staying cool.
Betelgeuse is also defying expectations with its super-speed rotation, which has been observed to be spinning around 150 times faster than would be expected for a star this big. Not to mention, in the early part of 2020, astronomers observed a “burst” of gravitational waves coming from the area near the star.
So what is going on with Betelgeuse and is it about to go supernova? Find out in this Elements.
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