Betelgeuse stardom is smaller and closer to us than we thought


Betelgeuse. Betelgeuse. Betelgeuse.

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

If you get the creepy feeling that someone is breathing in your throat, it could be Betelgeuse. The infamous star – the theme of excitement discussion of the supernova will-will-not-will earlier this year, it may be much closer to Earth than we thought.

Betelgeuse is a red super giant and is huge for the size of our sun. And a study published in The Astrophysical Journal this week will introduce some new calculations of the star’s mass and distance and give us an estimate of when it’s likely to be a supernova.

Speculation about the Betelgeuse explosion took off as the star went through several strange episodes of darkening and brightness that began in late 2019. Scientists believe that a cloud of dust caused one of these events. “We found that the second minor event was likely caused by the star’s pulsations,” lead author Meridith Joyce said in a statement from the Australian National University (ANU) on Friday.

The research team used modeling to determine what was going on with the pulsations and traced it back to what co-author Shing-Chi Leung of the University of Tokyo described as “pressure waves – basically sound waves.” This activity helped scientists find out where the star is in its life cycle.

Scientists had previously estimated it as the size of Betelgeuse relative to our solar system, but a new study revises this estimate downward.


As a result, Betelgeuse is not in danger of a supernova in the near future. It can easily take 100,000 years to get to this stage. This is in line with what other scientists have suggested.

The study also shakes our knowledge of the size of stars. “Betelgeuse’s actual physical size was a bit of a mystery: previous studies suggested it may be larger than Jupiter’s orbit. Our results say Betelgeuse only reaches two thirds of it, with a radius of 750 times the ray of sunshine, “said co-author Laszlo Molnar of the Konkoly Observatory in Budapest.

Thanks to the improved size of Betelgeus’s quadrant, the team was able to more accurately calculate its distance from Earth and position it at a distance of about 530 light-years, about 25% closer than previously known. There is still enough to prevent the future Betelgeuse explosion from damaging the Earth.

“When a supernova explodes, it’s still a big deal. And this is our closest candidate. It gives us a rare opportunity to study what happens to these stars before they explode,” Joyce said.

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