Re: Bye-bye, Betelgeuse?
- In terms of stars' lives, this process could take the next 10 or 20 thousand years, too!
--- In email@example.com, derhexer@... wrote:
> URL to an article in Fox News from Science
> I'll miss Betelgeuse (sob). I always knew that I had to make a left turn
> at Betelgeuse when I was on my way to Terminus, otherwise I'd end up at
> First few paragraphs
> The nearby, well-known and very bright star may soon explode in a
> supernova, according to data released by U.C. Berkeley researchers Tuesday.
> The red giant Betelgeuse, once so large it would reach out to Jupiter's
> orbit if placed in our own solar system, has shrunk by 15 percent over the
> past decade in a half, although it's just as bright as it's ever been.
> "To see this change is very striking," said retired Berkeley physics
> professor Charles Townes, who won the 1964 Nobel Prize for inventing the laser.
> "We will be watching it carefully over the next few years to see if it will
> keep contracting or will go back up in size."
> Betelgeuse, whose name derives from Arabic, is easily visible in the
> constellation Orion. It gave Michael Keaton's character his name in the movie
> "Beetlejuice" and was the home system of Galactic President Zaphod Beeblebrox
> in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."
> Red giant stars are thought to have short, complicated and violent
> lifespans. Lasting at most a few million years, they quickly burn out their
> hydrogen fuel and then switch to helium, carbon and other elements in a series of
> partial collapses, refuelings and restarts.
> Betelgeuse, which is thought to be reaching the end of its lifespan, may
> be experiencing one of those collapses as it switches from one element to
> another as nuclear-fusion fuel.
> "We do not know why the star is shrinking," said Townes' Berkeley
> colleague Edward Wishnow. "Considering all that we know about galaxies and the
> distant universe, there are still lots of things we don't know about stars,
> including what happens as red giants near the ends of their lives."
> Eventually, the huge star may become a nesting doll of elements, with a
> mixed iron-nickel core surrounded by onion-like layers of silicon, oxygen,
> neon, carbon, helium and hydrogen.
> As the iron fuel runs out, it may explode into a supernova, blasting newly
> created elements out into the universe and leaving behind a small,
> incredibly dense neutron star.
> All the heavier elements in the universe â" including all the oxygen,
> carbon and iron in your own body â" were created in such a way.
> It's possible we're observing the beginning of Betelgeuse's final collapse
> If so, the star, which is 600 light-years away, will already have exploded
> â" and we'll soon be in for a spectacular, and perfectly safe, interstellar
> fireworks show."
> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]