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Supergiant Star To Explode Near Earth! Betelgeuse To Go Supernova When It Collides With Collosal Dust Wall Say Astronomers

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Multiple arcs are revealed around Betelgeuse, the nearest red supergiant star to Earth, in this new image from ESA’s Herschel space observatory. The star and its arc-shaped shields could collide with an intriguing dusty ‘wall’ in 5000 years.

Betelgeuse rides on the shoulder of the constellation Orion the Hunter. It can easily be seen with the naked eye in the northern hemisphere winter night sky as the orange–red star above and to the left of Orion’s famous three-star belt.

Composite color image of the Herschel PACS 70, 100, 160 micron-wavelength images of Betelgeuse. North is to the top left, east is to the bottom left, and the image is about 25 arcminutes across.

The star (center) is surrounded by a clumpy envelope of material in its immediate vicinity. A series of arcs 6–7 arcminutes to the left of the star is material ejected from Betelgeuse as it evolved into a red supergiant star, shaped by its bow shock interaction with the interstellar medium. A faint linear bar of dust is illuminated at a distance of 9 arcminutes and may represent a dusty filament connected to the local Galactic magnetic field or the edge of an interstellar cloud. If so, then Betelgeuse’s motion across the sky implies that the arcs will hit the wall in 5000 years time, with the star colliding with the wall 12 500 years later.

Credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS/L. Decin et al

Roughly 1000 times the diameter of our Sun and shining 100 000 times more brightly, Betelgeuse’s impressive statistics come with a cost. For this star is likely on its way to a spectacular supernova explosion, having already swelled into a red supergiant and shed a significant fraction of its outer layers.

The new far-infrared view from Herschel shows how the star’s winds are crashing against the surrounding interstellar medium, creating a bow shock as the star moves through space at speeds of around 30 km/s.

A series of broken, dusty arcs ahead of the star’s direction of motion testify to a turbulent history of mass loss.

Closer to the star itself, an inner envelope of material shows a pronounced asymmetric structure. Large convective cells in the star’s outer atmosphere have likely resulted in localised, clumpy ejections of dusty debris at different stages in the past.

 
An intriguing linear structure is also seen further away from the star, beyond the dusty arcs. While some earlier theories proposed that this bar was a result of material ejected during a previous stage of stellar evolution, analysis of the new image suggests that it is either a linear filament linked to the Galaxy’s magnetic field, or the edge of a nearby interstellar cloud that is being illuminated by Betelgeuse.

If the bar is a completely separate object, then taking into account the motion of Betelgeuse and its arcs and the separation between them and the bar, the outermost arc will collide with the bar in just 5000 years, with the red supergiant star itself hitting the bar roughly 12 500 years later.

 
Akari observations of Betelgeuse, a bright red supergiant star located in the constellation Orion about 640 light-years from Earth, show the star making a big splash by creating a bow shock as it crosses the interstellar medium.

This artist’s impression shows how the bow shock structure is oriented with respect to Betelgeuse, the flow of the interstellar medium, and the Earth.

A discontinuity in density and pressure appears at the boundary where stellar wind from Betelgeuse collides into interstellar matter. Betelgeuse moves in space from lower right to upper left in this figure.

Researchers have found a strong flow of the interstellar medium around the star which originates from star-forming regions in Orion’s Belt and has a velocity of 11 km/s. Betelgeuse is crossing this river at 30 km/s, while spewing out wind at 17 km/s.

The Spotty Surface of Betelgeuse:   Betelgeuse really is a big star. If placed at the center of our Solar System it would extend to the orbit of Jupiter. But like all stars except the Sun, Betelgeuse is so distant it usually appears as a single point of light, even in large telescopes. Still, astronomers using interferometry at infrared wavelengths can resolve the surface of Betelgeuse and reconstructed this image of the red supergiant. The intriguing picture shows two, large, bright, star spots. The spots potentially represent enormous convective cells rising from below the supergiant’s surface. They are bright because they’re hotter than the rest of the surface, but both spots and surface are cooler than the Sun. Also known as Alpha Orionis, Betelgeuse is about 600 light-years away.

Credit: Xavier Haubois (Observatoire de Paris) et al.

In Greek mythology, Orion was a hunter whose vanity was so great that he angered the goddess Artemis. As his punishment, Artemis banished the hunter to the sky where he can be seen as the famous constellation Orion. In the constellation, Orion’s head is represented by the star Lamdba Orionis (fuzzy red dot in middle). When viewed in infrared light, NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, shows a giant nebula around Lambda Orionis, inflating Orion’s head to huge proportions. 

Lambda Orionis is a hot, massive star that is surrounded by several other hot, massive stars, all of which are creating radiation that excites a ring of dust, creating the “Lambda Orionis molecular ring.” Also known as SH 2-264, the Lambda Orionis molecular ring is sometimes called the Meissa ring. In Arabic, the star Lambda Orionis is known as “Meissa” or “Al-Maisan,” meaning “the shining one.” The Meissa Ring is of interest to astronomers because it contains clusters of young stars and proto-stars, or forming stars, embedded within the clouds. With a diameter of approximately 130 light-years, the Lambda Orionis molecular ring is notable for being one of the largest star-forming regions WISE has seen. This is also the largest single image featured by WISE so far, with an area of the sky approximately 10 by 10 degrees in size, equivalent to a grid of 20 by 20 full moons. Nevertheless, at less than one percent of the whole sky’s area, it is just a taste of WISE data. 

The bright blue star in the lower left corner of the image is the star Betelgeuse, which represents one shoulder of the hunter Orion. The name Betelgeuse is actually a corruption of the original Arabic phrase “Yad al-Jauza’,” meaning “hand of the giant one.” Betelgeuse is well known for being a red supergiant star, yet in WISE’s infrared view it appears blue, as do most stars in WISE images. This is because most stars, including Betelgeuse, put out more light in the shortest infrared wavelengths of light captured by WISE, and those shorter wavelengths are presented in WISE images as blue and cyan. 

 

In visible light, Orion’s other shoulder is clearly marked by the variable star Bellatrix. In infrared light, however, Bellatrix is a somewhat unremarkable cyan-colored star in the right side of the image. In Latin, Bellatrix means “female warrior,” which is perhaps why the name was chosen for a female witch character in the popular Harry Potter books. 

Also seen in this image are two dark nebulae, Barnard 30 and Barnard 35, which are parts of the Meissa ring that are so dense they block out visible light. Barnard 30 is the bright knob of gas and dust in the top center part of the image. Barnard 35 appears as a hook extending towards the center of the ring just above and to the right of the star Betelgeuse. The bright reddish object seen to in the middle right part of the image is the star HR 1763, which is surrounded by another star-forming region, LBN 867. 

Color in this image represents specific wavelengths of infrared light. Blue and cyan represent 3.4- and 4.6-microns, primarily light emitted by hot stars. Green and red represent 12- and 22-micron light, which is mainly radiation from warm dust. 

 

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    Total 19 comments
    • Mellissa

      Not exactly time pressing news but interesting. That is a serious explosion in the making

    • Quantum Kev

      A little misleading, adding the explanation mark to the title, doncha’ think? Considering that fact that this isn’t expected to happen for another 5000 years…

      • William

        Oh my god. What’s an “explanation mark”?

        GO BACK TO SCHOOL. SURPRISED THEY LET YOU OUT.

        It’s called an “exclamation point”.

        F—–

        • apd

          It exclamation mark where I come from too not everything evolved from America including the ENGLISH language if I we hadn’t come over you’d be called little big penis or whatever….

    • Anonymous

      Betelgeuse already went supernova and we will see it on Earth in 37 years.

    • Ranger_Ric

      Betelgeuse does not have to wait 5k years to hit this “filament” in order to blow up. We know the life cycle of red giants and this one could go at any time. In fact, it may already have went super nova, it will take about 600 years before we observe it after it happens.

      This star is big enough that it will likely form a neutron star, that is conventional wisdom anyway. In reality, we actually know a lot less than we think we know and are constantly finding things that we didn’t previously think were possible so who knows.

      Regardless of if it turns into a neutron star, a pulsar or a black hole… there will be a massive gamma ray burst as it explodes and transforms. I am surprised the article didn’t mention that since this site loves to play up the “were doomed” scenario.

      600 light years away is nothing in space, if that gamma ray burst hits the Earth from that relatively short distance, we would be so toast! Fortunately, the poles of that star are not pointed directly at Earth so we don’t have anything to worry about. None the less, it’s a good reminder that we live in a cosmic shooting gallery.

    • 57chevy2004

      Well, at least Iv’e got a little time to prepare for it.

    • Is-Be

      Beetlejuice Movie from Wikipedia:
      The plot revolves around a recently deceased young couple who become ghosts haunting their former home and an obnoxious, devious “bio-exorcist” named Betelgeuse from the underworld. Hmmmmmmm.

      • William

        I’m sorry… what’s the connection between a red giant star and that movie…. OTHER THAN THE NAME?

    • whalebone

      ….sorry but this isn’t new news. We have cameras on four stars 24/7 for years now. These four stars, Altair, Aldeberon, Arcturus, and Betelgeuse(hope I got the spelling correctly), all red giants, and considered ready to blow at any time, have long interested astronomers. Any or all of these stars may, in fact have already blown up, but their light might not have reached us yet. So we want to be prepared to witness the event that will be akin to M-1(it blew up somewhere around 1000a.d. and was visible in the daytime) when it happens. All of these stars are relatively close to us, relatively speaking, but are of no danger to us…

      • skepticguy

        Altair is not a red giant, just to clarify.

    • LightandLife

      Wow… we had better get prepared… LOL

    • Thane36425

      Or it could have already exploded and we don’t know it yet because of the delay. Whenever it goes it won’t be a threat just one heck of a light show.

    • zanbaq3

      http://zanbaq1.livejournal.com/

      3 days of darkness = 24 – 26 may due debris comet linear 209/p and
      27 th = explode alpha orionis

    • Ranger_Ric

      Do you know that because you are a time traveler or did the grays tell you?

    • Ranger_Ric

      Consider this…

      Although a huge star like this has a very short lifespan, it is still a few billion years which is long enough for planets to form. There could have conceivably been life sustaining planets in the goldilocks zone around this star before it progressed into a gas giant and consumed them.

      Intelligent life on those planets would have needed to have interstellar spaceflight capabilities or they would have been wiped out as a species.

      Fast forward three or four billion years and our own star, the Sun, will be a rapidly expanding red giant just like Betelgeuse is now. Our species will face the same choice… move out into the stars or become extinct.

      Seems like a long time and it is in civilizations terms. However, since we are only about midpoint in the lifecycle of our star we can rest assured that Earth will be wiped clean many times over with various extinction level events from super volcanoes to comet strikes between now and then.

      It would be prudent to advance space technology sooner rather than later.

      It’s a real shame we have a super minority of rich and powerful people using the worlds knowledge, wealth and resources to fight devastating wars and enslave entire populations rather than pursue beneficial things like space travel. I guess you can add any number of ways that a civilization can commit mass suicide and go extinct to that list of likely things that will happen long before our sun explodes!

    • Quantum Kev

      Ranger_ric, that is an AWESOME commentary – thank you! If somehow we could get this through to the money-grubbing war-mongering elites who really pull the strings…

    • Ravyn

      Your posts are great, Ranger Ric, good information. Since you seem to be pretty knowledagble about Beteguese, I have a couple of questions. I have read that when a star goes supernova, even if the poles are not directed at a specific object, let’s use Earth for example, so the Gamma Ray would not directly fry us, but that the supernova would also produce ‘waves’ in all directions that literally bend space. So my question is, is Betelguese close enough that those waves would be strong enough when they got to us to bend our space (therefor squashing the whole planet and stretching it back out again)?

      Also, I was wondering before I even read this article about Betelguese, and when it was supposed to go supernova, or if it has already. I know it would take a long time to for the light and the effects to reach us, I thought millions of years but you said 600 years. So, do we have the ability with our best telescopes to be able to see if a star as close as Betelguese has already gone supernova or not, or are we still so far away that even with our telescopes, we could be looking at hundreds to thousands of years ago at what Betelguese DID look like, and we have no way of knowing if it has already gone until the light reaches us?

      I find all this very interesting, and to be honest, it doesn’t scare me because if I was going to pick a way to become extinct, a massive Gamma Ray or the waves of space being bent by a supernova would definately be my top choice. Instant death, no pain, and it would likely happen and be over before we even knew what was coming. But just imagine how amazing the sight of that star after it goes supernova would be from Earth!

    • William

      TELESCOPES CANNOT LOOK INTO THE FUTURE. Their view is at the same moment as our unaided eye, only bigger.

      Like us, when they look at a star, they are seeing it as it existed in the past, not the present.

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