The red giant star Betelgeuse made a lot of astronomers worry after it started to dim significantly since October. The most widespread reason for the unusual lack of shininess was that the celestial object would soon become a supernova.
A supernova isn’t at all a pleasant event in the life of any star. It practically means ‘game over’ for such kind of cosmic object, regardless of how dominant it is on the night sky. But it seems like there’s no supernova coming for Betelgeuse just yet.
Betelgeuse regains its shine since February
Astronomers were amazed to conclude that the red giant star began to shine again since February. However, a paper published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters reveals that the great dimming of the celestial object is a result of two competing ideas.
Graham M. Harper is a co-author of the paper and an astrophysicist from the University of Colorado-Boulder’s Center for Astrophysics & Space Astronomy (CASA). He is among those astronomers that weren’t surprised that Betelgeuse had begun to bring back its brightness. Harper further explained:
There are two competing ideas for the cause of the dimming of the massive red supergiant Betelgeuse,
First, a large convection cell appeared on the surface (or an existing one cooled down) and this leads to the formation of a molecule called titanium oxide which absorbs light at visible wavelengths,
By absorbing light the star appears to dim. Second, astrophysical dust might have entered the line of sight to the star and that is absorbing the starlight, causing it to dim
Betelgeuse is normally the tenth-brightest star in the night sky, and it’s the second-brightest in the constellation of Orion after Rigel.
Betelgeuse is classified as having a spectral type M1-2, and it’s among the largest stars visible to the naked eye. If Betelgeuse would be placed at the center of our Solar System, it would be beyond the asteroid belt and even engulf Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and possibly Jupiter.