It’s Pronounced Beetlejuice

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Actually, it’s been a lot less pronounced lately.

Behold: Betelguese – one of the brightest and most recognised stars in the night sky (it’s that yellowish one off the shoulder of Orion). Only half as bright now as it was five months ago. To wit:

Such variability is likely just normal behavior for this famously variable supergiant, but the recent dimming has rekindled discussion on how long it may be before Betelgeuse does go supernova. Known for its red colour, Betelgeuse is one of the few stars to be resolved by modern telescopes, although only barely. The featured artist’s illustration imagines how Betelgeuse might look up close. Betelgeuse is thought to have a complex and tumultuous surface that frequently throws impressive flares. Were it to replace the Sun (not recommended), its surface would extend out near the orbit of Jupiter, while gas plumes would bubble out past Neptune. Since Betelgeuse is about 700 light years away, its eventual supernova will not endanger life on Earth even though its brightness may rival that of a full Moon. Astronomers — both amateur and professional — will surely continue to monitor Betelgeuse as this new decade unfolds.

(Illustration: ESO, L. Calcada)

apod

6 thoughts on “It’s Pronounced Beetlejuice

  1. Slightly Bemused

    Isn’t that Ford Prefect’s neck of the woods? Don’t piss him off – he just might call up the Talking Clock on you!

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  2. Spaghetti Hoop

    It’s also a cool star. Cool in temperature, which I struggled with at first as a young stargazer; red = cool, white = hot.
    In the heel of Orion, it represents the part of the foot where the scorpion stung the hunter – who had boasted he could defeat any living creature that crossed his path. The flickering represents the constant stinging and a reminder not to underestimate the deadly scorpion, who is loving it as his flickering heart star Antares suggests. Antares is also a cool star. Scorpius and Orion will never be seen in the same sky together due to this altercation.

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