"Digitized Sky Survey Image of Betelgeuse" by ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2 / CC BY 4.0

The bizarre dimming of bright star Betelgeuse caused by giant stellar eruption

Aug 13, 2020

By Mike Wall

Betelgeuse’s odd recent dimming was caused by a huge cloud of material that the supergiant star blasted into space, a new study suggests.

The bright star Betelgeuse, which forms the shoulder of the constellation Orion (The Hunter), is about 11 times more massive than the sun but 900 times more voluminous. That bloated condition shows that Betelgeuse is near death, which will come in the form of a violent supernova explosion.

In the fall of 2019, Betelgeuse began dimming significantly, losing about two-thirds of its brightness by February. This dramatic dip spurred speculation that the star’s demise may have been imminent — perhaps just weeks away. (From our perspective, anyway; Betelgeuse lies about 500 light-years from Earth, so everything we’re seeing with the star today happened centuries ago.)

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