(ORDO NEWS) — Betelgeuse is a star in the constellation Orion. She attracted the attention of the whole world because she lost her brightness twice. Many looked forward to the explosion of the star, hoping to see this spectacle with their own eyes. However, the scientists had to disappoint amateur astronomers. A new study has shed light on the mystery of the red supergiant.
An international research team led by scientists from the Australian National University (ANU) was able to uncover the secrets of Betelgeuse, one of the brightest and most recognizable stars in the night sky. It turns out that the size and distance to Betelgeuse differ from those that were established by scientists more than half a century ago.
On Friday, October 16, ANU reported that researchers used hydrodynamic and seismic simulations of the star to analyze the decrease in brightness of the star in the night sky that was observed throughout 2019. The research findings were published in The Astrophysical Journal.
The brightest star
Betelgeuse is a star in the constellation Orion. In 2019-2020, it attracted the attention of the whole world by the fact that it lost its brightness twice.
Today we know that the first drop in brightness was due to a huge cloud of dust that formed in orbit of Betelgeuse. This is stated in a study that was published in March in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
But the second decrease in brightness attracted the attention of ANU researchers more than the first. Astronomers have suggested that the drop in brightness was due to the pulsation of the star, which is considered common to all stars. In addition, the researchers found that helium continues to burn in Betelgeuse’s core.
Hydrogen is the core fuel for stars. The transformation of hydrogen into helium creates the energy that allows the star to exist. By the end of a star’s life, most of the hydrogen in its core is converted to helium, which in turn is used to generate energy. Subsequently, helium is converted to carbon and oxygen, and finally to iron.
Betelgeuse is at the last stage of evolution as a star, so its brightness decreases. Some scientists speculate that it will explode soon, but according to new research, the presence of helium in Betelgeuse’s core means it is still far from the explosion. There is still at least 100 thousand years left before helium turns into iron.
Secrets of an old star
The study also showed that Betelgeuse is only 530 light-years from Earth, not 700 as astronomers previously assumed. This, in turn, influenced the calculations of scientists who sought to find out the exact size of the giant star.
Astronomers previously assumed that if Betelgeuse were in the center of the solar system, its outer layers would reach roughly the same regions where Jupiter orbit is, but new research shows that its radius is one third less than the distance between the Sun and Jupiter.
Let’s take a closer look at how scientists determine the distance to stars. First of all, they quite accurately determine the diameter of the star in relation to the Earth, and then calculate the distance between the Earth and the corresponding star. Based on the data obtained, astronomers determine its true size.
Imagine that someone is holding the ball and gradually moving away from you, and the further it goes, the smaller the size of the ball seems to you. And if you can accurately measure the diameter of the ball and the distance between you, then you can easily determine the real size of the ball.
Thus, the situation with Betelgeuse attracted the attention of astronomers, who decided to study it more closely.
Unfortunately, this is sad news for amateur astronomers around the world as they hoped to see the star explode with their own eyes, but it looks like Betelgeuse, which was the closest candidate for an explosion, is no longer.
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