(ORDO NEWS) — A team of scientists from the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena (FSU) in Germany used historical sources to prove that the bright red giant Betelgeuse was yellow-orange just 2,000 years ago.
They report the results of their research in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Another 100 years BC Chinese court astronomer Sima Qian wrote: “White is like Sirius, red is like Antares, yellow is like Betelgeuse, blue is like Bellatrix.”
Regardless of the above, the Roman scientist Gaius Julius Hyginus wrote about 100 years later that Betelgeuse was the same color as the yellow-orange Saturn.
Other ancient authors, such as Ptolemy, provided additional evidence that Betelgeuse did not belong to the group of bright red stars such as Antares (in the constellation Scorpio) and Aldebaran (in Taurus, Bulla) in its time.
“From a statement by the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, we can conclude that in the 16th century Betelgeuse was redder than Aldebaran,” notes astronomer Ralf Neuhauser from FSU. Today, Betelgeuse is comparable in brightness and color to Antares.
Neuhauser has incorporated historical astronomical observations into his astrophysical research over the past ten years.
“There are many astrophysical problems that can hardly be solved without historical observations,” he explained.
“The very fact that Betelgeuse changed color from yellow-orange to red over the course of two millennia tells us that the mass of the star is 14 times the mass of our Sun.
Mass is the main parameter that determines the evolution of stars. Betelgeuse is now about 14 million years old and in a late evolutionary phase. In about 1.5 million years, it will finally explode as a supernova.”
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