Betelgeuse has dimmed significantly in 2019. Now, a new analysis reveals why: Betelgeuse exploded and is still recovering.
About 530 light-years from Earth, the red supergiant is one of the brightest stars in the night sky. This star forms the shoulders of Orion (the hunter).
It’s also a geriatric disease: Betelgeuse is about to end its stellar life and will eventually explode in a supernova visible from Earth, though it may be another 100,000 years, according to the 2021 study.
In late 2019, Betelgeuse’s lights began to dim. By February 2020, it had lost two-thirds of its normal luminosity as seen from Earth.
Scientists studying bizarre dimming have concluded that the star itself did not immediately go supernova, but rather a huge cloud of dust obscuring some of the star’s light.
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Now, scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope have discovered that the dust cloud is the result of a giant jet on the star’s surface: A plume more than a million miles (1.6 million kilometers) in diameter may have risen from the star’s interior, producing an equivalent of the research team’s In a paper published on the preprint database arXiv, it reported a starquake that blew up a chunk of the star’s surface, 400 million times larger than what is normally seen in the sun’s coronal mass ejection. astrophysical journal publishing.
“Betelgeuse now continues to do some very unusual things; a little bouncing inside,” study author Andrea Dupri, associate director of the Harvard and Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said in a statement.
This is uncharted territory for stellar science, Dupri said.
“We’ve never seen a massive mass ejection from a star’s surface before,” she said. “We don’t yet fully understand what’s going on. It’s a completely new phenomenon, and we can directly observe and resolve surface details with Hubble. We’re watching stellar evolution in real time.”
The new study also combines information from various other stellar observatories, such as the STELLA robotic observatory in Spain’s Canary Islands and NASA’s Earth-orbiting STEREO-A spacecraft.
By piecing together different types of data, Dupree and her team were able to put together a narrative about the blowout and its consequences.
The eruption blew away part of the star’s lower atmosphere, the photosphere, leaving a cool spot that was further obscured by the dust cloud created by the eruption.
Above: In the first two panels, huge convective cells on the star’s surface eject bright, hot clumps of plasma, as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope in ultraviolet light. In panel three, the outgoing, exhausted gas rapidly expands outward. It cooled to form a huge cloud of fuzzy dust particles. The last panel shows a massive dust cloud blocking light from a quarter of the star’s surface (as seen from Earth).
According to NASA’s statement, the mass of the photosphere is several times that of the Earth’s moon.
This cool spot and cloud of dust explain why Betelgeuse’s light is dimmed. The researchers found that the star was still feeling the echoes.
Before the eruption, Betelgeuse had a pulsating pattern, dimming and brightening in a 400-day cycle. That cycle is now over, at least temporarily.
Convective cells inside the star may still be sloshing around, disrupting this pattern, the researchers found.
According to NASA’s Hubble site, the star’s outer atmosphere may return to normal, but its surface may still be jiggling like jelly.
The eruption doesn’t prove Betelgeuse will go supernova anytime soon, but it does show how old stars lose mass, the researchers said.
If Betelgeuse eventually died in a stellar explosion, light would be visible from Earth during the day, but the star would be too far away to have any other effect on our planet.
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This article was originally published by Live Science. Read the original article here.