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Celebrity star Betelgeuse is smaller and closer to us than we knew



Betelgeuse. Betelgeuse. Betelgeuse.

ALMA (ESO / NAOJ / NRAO) / E. O’Gorman / P. Kervella

If you experience the eerie feeling of someone breathing down your throat, it could be Betelgeuse. The infamous star – the subject of an intriguing will-it-or-not-it-supernova discussion earlier in the year ̵

1; may actually be much closer to Earth than we suspected.

Betelgeuse is a red supergiant and it is monstrous compared to the size of our sun. A study published in The Astrophysical Journal this week reveals some new calculations of the star’s mass and distance and gives us an estimate of when it’s likely to become a supernova.

Speculation about the explosion of Betelgeuse kicked in high gear as the star went through some odd attenuation and glowing episodes starting in late 2019. Researchers believe that dust cloud caused one of these events. “We found out that the second minor event was probably due to the star’s pulsations,” lead author Meridith Joyce said in a statement from The Australian National University (ANU) on Friday.

The science team used modeling to find out what went on with the pulsations and trace it to what co-author Shing-Chi Leung of the University of Tokyo described as “pressure waves – essentially sound waves.” This activity helped the researchers find out where the star is in its life cycle.

Researchers had previously estimated this as the size of Betelgeuse compared to our solar system, but the new study revises this estimate down.

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The result is that Betelgeuse is not in danger of going supernova anytime soon. It can easily take 100,000 years before it gets to that stage. This is in line with what other researchers have suggested.

The study also shakes up our knowledge of the size of the star. “The actual physical size of the Betelgeuse has been a bit of a mystery – previous studies have suggested that it could be larger than Jupiter’s orbit. , “said co-author Laszlo Molnar of the Konkoly Observatory in Budapest.

With Betelgeuse’s size ringing in better, the team was able to make a more accurate calculation of the distance from Earth by placing it about 530 light-years away or approx. 25% closer than previously known. It is still far enough that the Earth will not be harmed by Betelgeuse’s future explosion.

“It’s still a really big thing when a supernova goes out. And this is our closest candidate. It gives us a rare opportunity to study what happens to stars like this before they explode,” Joyce said.


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