Scientists Finally Understand the ‘Great Dimming’ of Betelgeuse

Scientists Finally Understand the ‘Great Dimming’ of Betelgeuse

Many astronomers were left speechless when the red supergiant star Betelgeuse started to dim significantly in late 2019, although the space object was usually among the brightest stars from the night sky. Many speculated that the imposing star is about to explode, meaning to become a supernova.

In the meantime, Betelgeuse regained its lost power and glory, but that didn’t stop scientists from keeping looking for answers. They concluded that the red supergiant wasn’t about to die, and the reason for the dimming may shock you.

A gas bubble was the culprit

Miguel Montargès from the Observatoire de Paris, along with his team, analyzed data gathered by the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, and they concluded that a significant part of Betelgeuse’s “Great Dimming” was caused by a gas bubble that was ejected by a star. The news is brought by Engadget, and we have a new reason to believe that neither of us will see a supernova in our lifetime.

Emily Cannon, who is one of the co-authors of the new study, declared for the BBC:

Our overall idea is that there was a cool spot on the star which, because of the local drop in temperature, then caused gas ejected previously to condense into dust,
So, the cool spot on the surface would initially make the star look dimmer to us. But then this condensation of dust would add to the rapid drop in brightness of the star.

Paradoxically enough, a supernova is not the ultimate fate of a star. Failed supernovae are thought to generate stellar black holes after the collapse of a red supergiant star, meaning that Betelgeuse has chances to qualify for such a scenario. But that could only happen in the far future, as there are no objective and scientific reasons to believe that Betelgeuse is about to explode anytime soon.


Even since he was a child, Cristian was staring curiously at the stars, wondering about the Universe and our place in it. Today he's seeing his dream come true by writing about the latest news in astronomy. Cristian is also glad to be covering health and other science topics, having significant experience in writing about such fields.

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