Why is the star Betelgeuse shrinking

Supernova in Orion? What Betelgeuse's blackout means

A decrease in luminosity is not unusual in itself for a star like Betelgeuse. It is one of the variable stars and has experienced fluctuations in brightness over the past decades, which have been well researched. What is unusual, however, is that one of the most striking points of light in the sky darkens so extremely. Some scientists therefore consider that something special could soon happen: Betelgeuse could die in a huge explosion and shine brighter than the full moon for a short time before disappearing forever from the night sky.

Red giants like Betelgeuse have a relatively short and turbulent existence. It inevitably ends in a supernova, a tremendous star explosion that is visible over vast distances. So even if Betelgeuse is a relatively young star at around 8.5 million years old, researchers know that it is nearing the end of its life.

“The biggest question is actually when it becomes a supernova,” wrote Sarafina Nance on Twitter. The researcher from UC Berkeley studies betelgeuse and star explosions. "Disclaimer: I don't think it's going to explode anytime soon," she added in an interview with National Geographic. "But I'm already looking forward to when the time will come."

What do we know about Betelgeuse?

The star's name is believed to be based on an incorrect spelling and translation of its Arabic name yad al-jauza back, which means “hand of Orion”. It is also known as α Orionis. The alpha title is usually due to the brightest star in a constellation, which in this case would actually be Rigel at Orion's left foot.

In direct comparison with our sun, it becomes clear how Betelgeuse deserves the title of the red supergiant: It has 20 times the mass of the sun, and if our home star were replaced by Betelgeuse, the red star would represent Mercury, Venus, Earth, devour Mars, the asteroid belt, a few space probes, and maybe even Jupiter. Suddenly it would be pretty hot on Saturn.