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Thread: Jimmy Higgin's Astronomy Moment - Betelgeuse is Gonna Blow!

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    Lightbulb Jimmy Higgin's Astronomy Moment - Betelgeuse is Gonna Blow!

    Yup... this is pretty exciting stuff. Betelgeuse is on the verge of exploding. Seeing a supernova is a once in several lifetimes event, and we are on the verge of it. Notice the link for the word "exploding"? Pretty much means it is true.

    The recent dimming is unprecedented in human history which dates back a few millennia! And gravitational waves were detected at all three LIGO stations, from a signal coming from (kind of around the vicinity of) Betelgeuse.

    Now some of you are wondering, what is Betelgeuse. Beteleuse is a star found in the sky and is famously known as "one of those Orion stars... no... not the belt... one of the others". The word Betelgeuse comes from the Latin interpretation of the Greek word meaning Michael Keaton.

    Betelgeuse is huge... how huge? If you put it in our solar system, it'd likely reach close to Jupiter. This would make baking potatos on a Jovian Moon much easier. Betelgeuse also spins fast... not like pulsar spinning fast, but fastish... which scientists also note is an interesting thing for some reason. It also has a lot of nitrogen gas which is expected to be the result of something happening at some point in the star's past.

    So, how long until the supernova? Well, it is just around the corner... anywhere from 1 day to several hundred thousand years... a blink of the eye in cosmic time.

    There are common questions regarding Betelgeuse inevitable explosion. "Do I need to be prepared for Betelgeuse going supernova?" "Is supernova one word or two words?" "Do we capitalize supernova when talking about a specific one?" These are all great questions to ask a competent astronomer if you find one.

    For more information about supernovas or astronomy, feel free to look it up on Wikipedia, but don't expect to learn anything from Discovery Channel.

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    Back when the comet struck Jupiter I was living in the North Idaho panhandle. The word went out to bring your telescope to a park.

    I took my small 5 inch reflector. There must have been a dozen or more scopes and a crowd lined up at each one. I put mine on the moon. A kid walked up and took a look. When he turned his head his eyes were bug eyed.

    Astronomy inspires.

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    Contributor skepticalbip's Avatar
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    While it would be neat to see Betelgeuse go supernova, there will be no one around to see it. If we aren't all dead from the coronavirus then all life on Earth will likely be be eliminated by a massive gamma ray burst from Apep which looks like it may be aimed at us.
    https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/...burst/10506316

    Spectacular cosmic pinwheel is a 'ticking bomb' set to blast gamma rays across the Milky Way
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    Just don't say "Betelgeuse" three times or you will be stuck with that bastard.

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    Fair dinkum thinkum bilby's Avatar
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    I have been watching Betelgeuse for over four decades, in anticipation of it going 'bang'. I was an astronomy mad kid, with a south facing bedroom in the UK, and Orion dominated my view in the clear, frosty, January nights. Now I am an old man in Australia, looking north on hot, humid, January nights, looking at the same star, in an upside down constellation, and still wondering whether I will be fortunate enough to be looking when it explodes.

    The latest news of unprecedented dimming is raising my hopes. But I will probably live a few thousand years too few to see the fireworks.

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    Mazzie Daius fromderinside's Avatar
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    ...and physicists say time isn't relevant.

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    Betelgeuse dimming.

    ''Beginning in October 2019, astronomers noticed that the brightness of Betelgeuse suddenly began to change. The star was dimming. Once one of the top 10 brightest stars in the sky, its brightness had fallen to 21st place by the end of December 2019. Wild claims have been made about this sudden dimming of Betelgeuse, and many misconceptions spread. Some media outlets claimed the dimming was evidence that the star was about to go supernova, ending its life in a spectacular explosion. Is that possible? And if Betelgeuse did go supernova, how would that affect Earth?''

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    Quote Originally Posted by bilby View Post
    I have been watching Betelgeuse for over four decades, in anticipation of it going 'bang'. I was an astronomy mad kid, with a south facing bedroom in the UK, and Orion dominated my view in the clear, frosty, January nights. Now I am an old man in Australia, looking north on hot, humid, January nights, looking at the same star, in an upside down constellation, and still wondering whether I will be fortunate enough to be looking when it explodes.

    The latest news of unprecedented dimming is raising my hopes. But I will probably live a few thousand years too few to see the fireworks.
    I saw a video on Betelgeuse that suggested it could actually be a long long way from exploding, as in much longer than 100,000 years. It was about the modeling of how the star has its rotation as well as Nitrogen content, which implies it could have a decent amount of fuel left.

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    Fair dinkum thinkum bilby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy Higgins View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by bilby View Post
    I have been watching Betelgeuse for over four decades, in anticipation of it going 'bang'. I was an astronomy mad kid, with a south facing bedroom in the UK, and Orion dominated my view in the clear, frosty, January nights. Now I am an old man in Australia, looking north on hot, humid, January nights, looking at the same star, in an upside down constellation, and still wondering whether I will be fortunate enough to be looking when it explodes.

    The latest news of unprecedented dimming is raising my hopes. But I will probably live a few thousand years too few to see the fireworks.
    I saw a video on Betelgeuse that suggested it could actually be a long long way from exploding, as in much longer than 100,000 years. It was about the modeling of how the star has its rotation as well as Nitrogen content, which implies it could have a decent amount of fuel left.
    Well I plan to live forever, or die in the attempt.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bilby View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy Higgins View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by bilby View Post
    I have been watching Betelgeuse for over four decades, in anticipation of it going 'bang'. I was an astronomy mad kid, with a south facing bedroom in the UK, and Orion dominated my view in the clear, frosty, January nights. Now I am an old man in Australia, looking north on hot, humid, January nights, looking at the same star, in an upside down constellation, and still wondering whether I will be fortunate enough to be looking when it explodes.

    The latest news of unprecedented dimming is raising my hopes. But I will probably live a few thousand years too few to see the fireworks.
    I saw a video on Betelgeuse that suggested it could actually be a long long way from exploding, as in much longer than 100,000 years. It was about the modeling of how the star has its rotation as well as Nitrogen content, which implies it could have a decent amount of fuel left.
    Well I plan to live forever, or die in the attempt.
    Yeah, good luck with that. If you die, let us know so we can try something that you didn't.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DBT View Post
    ''Beginning in October 2019, astronomers noticed that the brightness of Betelgeuse suddenly began to change. The star was dimming. Once one of the top 10 brightest stars in the sky, its brightness had fallen to 21st place by the end of December 2019. Wild claims have been made about this sudden dimming of Betelgeuse, and many misconceptions spread. Some media outlets claimed the dimming was evidence that the star was about to go supernova, ending its life in a spectacular explosion. Is that possible? And if Betelgeuse did go supernova, how would that affect Earth?''
    Well, Betelgeuse is known as a semi-regular variable star, so it's brightness has known to vary, but this drop has been quite a bit bigger than usual. If you have seen Orion before, the dimming is quite obvious.
    Still, it doesn't mean that it going supernova is imminent, as there are other explanations such as it "burping" out a cloud of dust that is temporarily obscuring the light.
    The first indication that Betelgeuse will blow will be a spike in neutrino activity right before the actual core collapse, and it will take a few hours for the shockwave to reach the surface. But alas, that might not happen for 1000s of years.

    As to how it will affect the Earth. At 640 ly away, Betelgeuse is far enough to be safe (30 ly or closer and it would wipe out the ozone layer for starters) but it will nevertheless deliver quite a light show. It will be about as bright as a full moon, but concentrated in a point. Like moonlight, it will cast shadows and be clearly visible even in daytime. Not sure whether the x-ray and gamma radiation coming from it would be dangerous to astronauts in orbit and/or would disrupt satellites.
    In any case, it would be closer than other supernovas we observed. The closest recent one, 1987A, wasn't even in our galaxy but in the Large Magelanic Cloud, 168,000 ly away. The "Chinese" supernova from almost a 1000 years ago and that one was still 10x as far away as Betelgeuse. So we will (eventually) have quite a front row seat!

    Btw, Betelgeuse is as far as I know the only star other than Sun (and thus the only object outside the Solar System) whose 'surface' features have been resolved in an image.

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