You’ve probably thought that Betelgeuse is doing just fine, and its dimming process is over. Recent observations reveal how the red giant star has started acting up again.
This new dimming is not as dramatic as the Great Fainting, but it still worries astronomers. Once again, we get to see how the star is moving into the spotlight.
Betelgeuse is approximately 700 light-years away in Orion’s constellation and is considered one of the brightest stars so far. It’s also one of the most intriguing because it’s an ancient star (around 8 to 8.5 million years) and somehow likes to play with death. Here is what you need to know.
Betelgeuse’s Reckless Behavior Returns: What to Expect This Time
Betelgeuse’s dimming event observed between September 2019 and February 2020, dubbed the Great Fainting, was extremely tense. The star’s brightness was dimmed by almost 25 %. Now, seeing how all this dimming process kicked again, astronomers fear the giant star is getting closer to death’s doorstep.
They found, however, after rigorous investigations that it was just a little wave of dimming. Betelgeuse discharged only a bunch of matter that partially shadowed it for a time. Emily Levesque, an astronomer at the University of Washington, said in March: “We see this all the time in red supergiants, and it’s a normal part of their life cycle.” So, we should keep hoping that Betelgeuse has still many moments to live.
The new dimming wasn’t that dramatic compared to the Great Fainting. It is also not consistent with the giant star’s variability cycles. Betelgeuse’s upcoming brightness peak is estimated to occur very soon, this month (August) or the next one.
Betelgeuse’s brightness has been a bit challenging to track since its position in our sky moved behind our host star from May to early August. NASA’s STEREO (the Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory) is one of the most capable instruments that can keep a watchful eye on Betelgeuse. Its Heliospheric Imager, for instance, recorded the giant star’s brightness in visible light.
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