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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. Kervela

If you feel the ominous feeling that someone is breathing down your neck, it could be Betelgeuse. The scandalous star – the object of excitement I want or I don̵

7;t want a supernova discussion earlier this year – in fact, it may be much closer to Earth than we thought.

Betelgeuse is a red supergiant and 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 a supernova is likely to pass.

Speculation about the Betelgeuse explosion began at high speed when the star went through strange episodes of eclipse and illumination, beginning in late 2019. Scientists believe a dust cloud triggered one of these events. “We found that the second minor event was probably due to the pulsations of the star,” lead author Meredith Joyce said in a statement from the Australian National University (ANU) on Friday.

The research team used modeling to sort out what was happening to the pulsations, tracing it to what co-author Shing-Chi Leung of the University of Tokyo described as “pressure waves – essentially sound waves.” This activity helped researchers understand where the star is in its life cycle.

Scientists have previously calculated this as the size of Betelgeuse compared to our solar system, but a new study is reviewing this estimate downwards.


The result is that Betelgeuse is not in danger of becoming a supernova any time soon. It could easily take 100,000 years to reach this stage. It is in line with what other scientists suggest.

The study also shakes our knowledge of the size of the star. “The actual physical size of Betelgeuse is a bit of a mystery – earlier studies have suggested that it may be larger than Jupiter’s orbit. Our results say that Betelgeuse extends only two-thirds of that, with a radius of 750 times larger than the radius of the sun, “said co-author Laszlo Molnar of the Konkoly Observatory in Budapest.

With the size of Betelgeuse better, the team was able to calculate more accurately its distance from Earth, placing it at about 530 light-years, or about 25% closer than previously known. This is still far enough so that the Earth will not be injured by the future explosion of Betelgeuse.

“It’s still a really big deal when a supernova explodes. And that’s 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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