Betelgeuse, a star that was thought to be dimming, is brightening again
By Angela Garrity, Guest blogger
Have you noticed anything different in the nighttime winter sky lately? A well-known star 700 light-years away is causing a mass of fervor in the science community as to what precisely what is going on with this star and what happens next with its very strange behaviors lately.
Photo: NPR. Betelgeuse is the bright star in the upper left. To find it when you're stargazing, find Orion's Belt and look at the upper left by Orion's shoulder.
Science Alert reports that the dimming of the star was leading some to speculate a massive supernova explosion was imminent at any time. The star will go supernova eventually, but not for tens of thousands of years.
The dimming has stopped and there seems to be evidence of Betelgeuse brightening. Betelgeuse appears to be going back to a more normal brightness level, with timing that's consistent with the star's variability cycle.
"Photometry secured over the last ~2 weeks shows that Betelgeuse has stopped its large decline of delta-V of ~1.0 mag relative to September 2019," astronomers wrote in an Astronomers Telegram. "Based on these and additional observations, Betelgeuse has definitely stopped dimming and has started to slowly brighten. Thus this 'fainting' episode is over but additional photometry is needed to define the brightening phase."
The red supergiant has science perplexed as to why the 8-million-year-old star dimmed by 25 percent to begin with. The possibilities are endless and are being investigated by astronomers. Cooling on the stellar surface and a giant dust cloud being ejected from the star towards us are two theories that could explain the dimming.
The red supergiant star, also known as Alpha Orionis, is part of the constellation that makes up the shoulder (or armpit) of Orion. It was named “Betelgeuse” as a derivative from the Arabic word for armpit of Orion by those who originally first mapped stars into constellations.
Time will tell what happens, but at least for now, this star is noble at keeping the secrets of the universe shrouded in mystery.
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