Betelgeuse, a bright, very large star in the constellation of Orion has been dimming since October – suggesting it might go supernova, according to astronomers.
A supernova is when a star reaches the end of its life and implodes in a gigantic stellar explosion. The idea of Betelgeuse going through this process is fascinating because the star is only 700 light years away from Earth, It would give scientists an unrivalled opportunity to gather data about this cosmic event and the collapsed star could shine brighter than the moon in our sky for weeks or even months. Thankfully, we would be too far away to be affected by the massive burst of radiation that a supernova would create.
Of course, even if this was the reason for Betelgeuse to be growing fainter, there’s no telling when it could occur. It may go supernova next week or in 100,000 years. And there are other reasons as well – the faintness may be due to some kind of eruption of gas or dust or just a change in the star’s surface composition.
‘Betelgeuse is dimming, which is an indication that it will go supernova soon – when we don’t exactly know’, said space security expert Dr Malcolm Davis. ‘When it happens (it would have actually happened ~690 years before we see it on Earth given the star’s distance) it will be as bright as the full moon.’ Betelgeuse will explode – it’s just a matter of when – it’s at the end of its life and is due to end in a supernova event, astronomer Dave Eagle explained. ‘The statistical likelihood of this event occurring during your 90 (give or a take a few years) year lifetime is extremely small.’ Science writer, Jason Major, says it is unlikely to happen but speculating about the idea of a nearby supernova for scientists is like ‘imagining what you’d do with the money if you won the lottery’. So, while Betelgeuse going supernova would undoubtedly provide the greatest celestial New Year fireworks display in history, it seems very unlikely that we’ll get to witness such an event in our lifetimes.