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  • One of the sky's brightest stars has been exhibiting some pretty unusual behavior.

  • Since October 2019, this massive red supergiant, named Betelgeuse, has been losing its sparkle

  • leading many scientists to wonder whether the star is headed toward its demise

  • by way of a supernova explosion.

  • And me to wonder if it will blow if we say its name three times.

  • Like the Tim Burton character, Betelgeusealso pronounced Betelgeuse

  • is known for its erratic behavior,

  • shrinking then expanding and dimming then flaring on a semi regular basis.

  • This ruddy colored star is located at the top left of Orion's belt, the most visible part of the constellation.

  • And it's huge, with a mass that's over 10 times the size of our Sun,

  • and a diameter that's roughly 1,000 times larger.

  • This 8-9 million year old star is also super bright,

  • frequently ranking among the top 10 brightest stars in our night sky.

  • At least, it did.

  • According to recent reports, Betelgeuse has cooled by roughly 100 Kelvin since September 2019

  • and is now hovering around 1.6 apparent magnitude,

  • a significant drop from its average range of 0.4 to 1.2 magnitudes of brightness.

  • This supergiant has now been demoted to about the 21st brightest star in the galaxy,

  • which is the faintest it's been in at least a century.

  • So what gives?

  • Well, one might be inclined to attribute the star's fluctuating brightness to its regular "cycles,"

  • which occur in both short, several month-long periods and longer ones lasting about 6 years,

  • which affects how dim or bright Betelgeuse appears.

  • Could it just be that these cycles are overlapping, or maybe that clouds of debris are blocking the star's light?

  • Well, maybebut other strange things are also happening to the star.

  • For one, it's shedding quite a lot of mass,

  • but instead of generating lots of heat like scientists would assume, it's staying cool.

  • Betelgeuse is also defying expectations with its super-speed rotation,

  • which has been observed to be spinning around 150 times faster than would be expected for a star this big.

  • And nothing we've observed so far can really account for this.

  • Although there is a theory that Betelgeuse captured a star 100,000 years or so ago,

  • in turn inheriting its angular momentum and a faster rotation.

  • And to add to all this, in the early part of 2020 astronomers observed a “burstof gravitational waves

  • coming from the area near the star,

  • which has really got astronomers wondering what the heck is going on.

  • One of the prevailing theories to explain all of this seemingly unexplainable behavior

  • is that the star is about to go supernova.

  • If that's the case, that means it's been triggered into runaway nuclear fusion,

  • a process which would entail the star gobbling up its remaining fuel until its depleted core collapses.

  • Ultimately that would lead to the brightest supernova ever observed,

  • turning about as bright as the moon within just a few days

  • and casting shadows here on Earth.

  • Supernovae are undoubtedly some of the most defining events in our understanding of the cosmos,

  • and because they're so few and far between, observing one is a huge deal.

  • The last supernova to be discovered in our own solar system was Kepler's Star,

  • which Johannes Kepler observed way back in 1604.

  • This sighting convinced him and others that the heavens weren't fixed

  • and it still blows our minds today, over 400 years later.

  • Since then we've gotten better at confirming these astronomical events,

  • like the supernova that took place back in 1987,

  • when light from a star that died in a nearby constellation 50,000 years prior finally reached Earth.

  • So if Betelgeuse is indeed headed towards its demise, then astronomically speaking,

  • this explosion could be imminent,

  • happening anytime within the next few thousand years or the next 100,000.

  • Unfortunately not much else is known, except that more observational studies and models are definitely needed.

  • But there's one final twist to the Betelguese saga,

  • and it involves something that we're a little bit more certain about:

  • the star is expected to cross paths with a bunch of interstellar dust within the next few thousand years,

  • crashing into the wall at a rate of about 30 kilometers per second.

  • No matter what the future holds for Betelgeuse, it seems only fitting for a star of this stature

  • to go out with a BIG bang!

  • And we're definitely here for it.

  • Even if we might not be, you know, actually here for it.

  • I will be dead.

  • Curious to observe Betelguese's changes yourself?

  • If you're in the northern hemisphere, just look up, no instruments are needed!

  • Let us know what you see in the comments below,

  • and if there's another stellar discovery that you'd like to see us cover.

  • Don't forget to subscribe for more Seeker.

  • As always, thanks for watching and we'll see you next time.

One of the sky's brightest stars has been exhibiting some pretty unusual behavior.

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B2 betelgeuse star supernova observed brightest kepler

Will Betelgeuse Explode? This Is What Scientists Know So Far

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    Summer posted on 2020/10/12
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