Many astronomers thought that the red supergiant star Betelgeuse was on the edge of explosion when the cosmic object started to dim significantly several months ago. Usually being one of the brightest stars from the night sky, Betelgeuse became very faint. Stars die in a tremendous blast known as a supernova when they consume all of their fuel, and sooner or later each star will have the same fate.
Astronomers weren’t sure that Betelgeuse is indeed about to explode, but yet a new study comes to shed some light on the mystery.
The culprit is a material forming a dense dust cloud that obscured Betelgeuse
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope examined ultraviolet light emitted by Betelgeuse during its most significant dimming phases. Thus, astronomers observed a mass of bright, hot material that moves outward from the southern hemisphere of the star.
Andrea Dupree, the lead author of the study and associate director at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, declared:
“This material was two to four times more luminous than the star’s normal brightness,”
The material started to cool down as it moved through space, and it formed a dense dust cloud that partially obscured Betelgeuse.
The star in question is located 640 light-years from us. This means that even if by some means it will still become a supernova, there’s still no use of worrying.
Betelgeuse is normally the tenth-brightest star from the night sky, and it’s also the second-brightest after Rigel in the Orion constellation.
Betelgeuse is also among the largest stars that are visible from Earth with the naked eye. Betelgeuse is so big that if it would be placed at the center of our Solar System, it will even be engulfing Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and maybe Jupiter. The red supergiant is 700 times more massive than the Sun.
The new study was published in The Astrophysical Journal.