Astronomers around the world, whether amateurs or professionals are watching the sky to witness “a moment that comes once in a lifetime.”
They speculate that Betelgeuse, one of the brightest stars to be seen on Earth, maybe turning into a supernova and that this is going to happen much earlier than expected. Simply put: it’s going to explode.
Although astronomers know that the Betelgeuse will gradually “explode”, some recent changes have raised questions in their minds.
Why do scientists think the Betelgeuse will explode?
The Betelgeuse has already been classified as “stars on the brink of extinction” whose eruption is only a matter of time.
Compared to our Sun, which is about 4.5 billion years old, this star is only 6 million to 10 million years old. But it is rapidly consuming its nuclear energy.
It is a red super giant, a star whose lifespan is nearing its end, but its size has expanded considerably.
Betelgeuse is a giant vibrating star, meaning it expands and contracts at the same time – the range of this ‘neighbor’ can be 550 to 920 times longer than the Sun.
“All that is known is that it has the potential to become a supernova,” Daniel Brown, an assistant professor at Nottingham Trent University, told the BBC.
“From its current state, it is clear that this could happen at any time, as is the case with astronomy.”But that means it could be in the next million years,” Brown said.
Does that mean it’s not going to turn into a supernova anytime soon?
However, in the last few months, astronomers have noticed that the Betelgeuse is slowly turning into faint stars – researchers at the University of Villanova in the United States claimed last December that the star had reached its faintest point in 50 years of observation.
From the significant loss of brightness, the idea is that this red giant is “going to explode.”
Scientists theoretically say that losing so much brightness means that a star has run out of time.
“At the end of their lifespan, even the giant stars lose their mass at a massive rate,” wrote Sarafina Nance, an astronomer at the University of California and a researcher at Betelgeuse.
“Theoretically, the dust from the star before it turned into a supernova could cover the dying star and obscure it, causing it to disappear from our sight.”However, scientists are well aware that Betelgeuse is a changing star.
Emily Brandsen, an astrophysicist at the University of York, told the BBC that it was a star that changed the brightness seen from Earth.
“There’s nothing to indicate that the Battle of the Betelgeuse is imminent. We’ve never had the opportunity to observe from the supernova process, so it’s safe to say that it could happen at any time,” Brandsen said.
What will happen in the explosion?
A supernova is a powerful and bright explosion that emits huge amounts of energy. There is no chance of it being invisible, especially after being so “close” to the earth. “In a few days the Betelgeuse will look as bright as the full moon again,” Brown said.”It can even be seen during the day.”It can last for months.
So are we in danger?
Supernovae are massively destructive. For example, if our sun exploded, astronomers said, the entire solar system would be destroyed.
The previous star explosion caused the Earth’s temperature to rise, damaging our weight levels and exposing it to harmful solar and cosmic radiation.
The good news is that our Sun is too small to explode like the Betelgeuse – although it is predicted that in a few billion years it could increase in size and destroy Mercury, Venus, and Earth.
Most importantly, according to science, the Earth is at a safe distance from the Betelgeuse.”Anything less than 50 light-years away can cause problems,” said Daniel Brown.
“That’s not the case with the Betelgeuse.”The star is located in the constellation Orion and is about 600 light-years from Earth. In addition, a study published in the Astrophysical Journal in 2016 estimated that it would take six million years for shockwaves and debris to reach the solar system.
Is the Betelgeuse supernova really that important?
The last supernova in our Milky Way galaxy was in 1804 – 13,000 light-years from Earth, at a distance 20 times greater than that of the Betelgeuse. It became known as Kepler’s supernova because of the German astronomer Johannes Kepler documenting it.
The most recent sighting with the naked eye is in 1986, in the neighboring dwarf galaxy known as the Great Magellanic Cloud-16,000 light-years away. Despite being so far away, it was the closest supernova after Kepler.
“By observing the evolutionary process of the death of a star, the Betelgeuse are giving us the opportunity to understand more about the universe,” said Emily Brandsen.
“If it explodes now, it will be like a nightmare for all astronomers at work because then we have to rethink what we know about stars.”But on the other hand, it will also be an interesting event again.”
Why is it so difficult to know when it will turn into a supernova?
If we have a history of documenting and observing the phenomenon of ‘star deaths’ before, but it has never been an opportunity to observe intensively.
Betelgeuse came in such a situation. Although the Betelgeuse is 600 light-years away, they are astronomically close to the Milky Way. This proximity is one of the few stars beside the Sun whose surface can be observed in detail. In this way, Betelgeuse could make supernova science a valuable opportunity. To research the concept of “near and personal” or phenomena.”It can also be a dazzling show for stargazers or those who see stars.”
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