The star Betelgeuse is smaller and closer to us than we thought


Betelgeuse. Betelgeuse. Betelgeuse.

ALMA (ESO / NAOJ / NRAO) / E. O’Gorman / P. Kervella

If you’re experiencing the horrible feeling of someone breathing down your neck, it might be Betelgeuse. The infamous star – the subject of excitement whether or not you want to discuss the supernova at the beginning of this year – perhaps much closer to Earth than we had anticipated.

Betelgeuse is red oversized and is monstrous compared to the size of our sun. But a study published in The Astrophysical Journal this week reveals some new calculations of the mass and distance of the star and gives us an estimate of when the supernova is likely to go.

Speculation about the Betelgeuse explosion began in late 2019, when the star went through some strange episodes of blackout and enlightenment that began in late 2019. Scientists believe that a cloud of dust caused one of these events. “We found that the second minor event was probably due to the star’s pulses,” lead author Meridith Joyce said in a statement from the Australian National University (ANU) on Friday.

Using modeling, the scientific team sorted out what happens to pulsations and found what co-author Shing-Chi Leung of the University of Tokyo described as “pressure waves – basically sound waves. This activity helped researchers determine where the star is in its life cycle.

Scientists have already estimated this to be the size of Betelgeuse compared to our solar system, but a new study corrects that estimate.


The result is that Betelgeuse is not threatening to become a supernova any time soon. It could simply be 100,000 years before this phase occurs. That is according to what other scientists suggest.

The study also shakes our knowledge of star size. “The actual physical size of Betelgeuse was a bit mysterious – previous studies have suggested that it could be larger than the orbit of Jupiter. Our results say that the Betelgeuse extends to only two-thirds of that, with a radius 750 times the radius of the sun, ”said co-author Laszlo Molnar of the Konkoly Observatory in Budapest.

With Betelgeuse’s size, which he called better, the team was able to calculate its distance from Earth more accurately by being about 530 light-years away, or about 25% closer than before. This is still far enough away that Betelgeuse’s future explosion will not harm Earth.

“It’s still a really big thing when a supernova goes off. And this is our closest candidate. This gives us a rare opportunity to study what happens to such stars before they explode, ”Joyce said.


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