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Red supergiant Betelgeuse not so bright, not so giant, not so far away

Posted On: 17 Oct 2020   |   Posted By: Astronomy Now

Red supergiant Betelgeuse not so bright, not so giant, not so far away

The red supergiant Betelgeuse. Image: ALMA /E. O'Gorman/P. Kervella
The red supergiant Betelgeuse in the constellation Orion may not be quite as large or far away as previously thought, new research suggests, but it's still a prime candidate to end its life in a supernova blast as it burns up the last of its nuclear fuel in the not-too-distant future.
Speculation about just when that fiery blast might be expected ramped up in the wake of the star's pronounced dimming over the past year. But extensive observations suggest a different explanation: most of that dimming was caused by a huge cloud of dusty debris thrown off by the bloated star along the line of sight to Earth.
A second, less intense episode likely was triggered by pressure waves driving pulsations in the giant star.
“It's normally one of the brightest stars in the sky, but we've observed two drops in the brightness of Betelgeuse since late 2019,” said Meridith Joyce of The Australian National University....

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