Astrophysicist, Andrea Dupree, says the supergiant star Betelgeuse may be going supernova sooner than expected. Dupree is the associate director of the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian. She is also the first woman and youngest person ever to hold that position.
Dr. Dupree leads a team of world-renowned experts who have been studying the strange dimming of the star Betelgeuse.
Dr. Dupree explained that the star is a thousand times more massive than the Earth’s sun, and astronomers have been watching it for over 150 years. Betelgeuse is 725 light-years from Earth. Any light or light dimming that we see from Betelgeuse today left the star in the year 1300.
In October and November 2019, the Hubble Space Telescope observed dense, ultra-hot material shooting out of the star’s extended atmosphere at 200,000 miles per hour. The following month, several ground-based telescopes noted that Betelgeuse’s southern hemisphere was dimmer.
By February 2020, two-thirds of the star’s brilliance was missing. The dimming was visible even to the naked eye.
In late June through early August 2020, the team tracked Betelgeuse, measuring the star’s relative brightness in comparison to others found it was getting darker.
Dupree has noted that Betelgeuse is losing mass at a rate 30 million times higher than the Sun, but that recent activity resulted in a loss of roughly two times the average amount of material from the southern hemisphere alone.
“We know that other hotter luminous stars lose material, and it quickly turns to dust, making the star appear much fainter. But in over a century-and-a-half, this has not happened to Betelgeuse. It’s very unique,” Dupree added.
On Aug. 11, the study, “Spatially Resolved Ultraviolet Spectroscopy of the Great Dimming of Betelgeuse,” was submitted to the Astrophysical Journal.
So far, they have not been able to pinpoint the source of the mysterious dimming. There remains a lot of speculation that the star might soon be going supernova.
“Betelgeuse is a bright star in our galaxy, near the end of its life, that is likely to become a supernova,” Dr. Dupree stated. “No one knows how a star behaves in the weeks before it explodes, and there were some ominous predictions that Betelgeuse was ready to become a supernova. Chances are, however, that it will not explode during our lifetime, but who knows?”
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