The Absolute Cosmos: New research suggests Betelgeuse is closer & smaller than previously expected

Betelgeuse aka Alpha Orionis is a red supergiant star, it is the second brightest star (while Rigel being the first) in the constellation of Orion.

The star created quite a buzz in late 2019 and early 2020, when it dimmed dramatically. This prompted scientists to study the star in unprecedented details.

It was speculated that star is about to go supernova, however scientists knew it was highly unlikely.

Since late 2019, astronomers have detected two drops in Betelgeuse’s brightness. The first was due to dust clouds blocking the visible light and second smaller drop was likely due to star’s pulsations.

Now, in their continued effort to understand these events, a team of scientists from Australian National University (ANU) has come up with some strange results.

This new study revised the size and distance of star from Earth significantly.

Earlier the star was thought to be around 1.5 billion kilometres across in size but the new estimates put it just over one billion kilometres. That’s quite a smaller than previously calculated size but it’s still huge.

With better size results in hand, the team also calculated more accurate distance of star from Earth. The revised distance placed it at around five hundred and thirty light years away which is about twenty five percent closer to Earth than previously estimated.

According to study co-author Dr. László Molnár- the true size of Betelgeuse has always been a bit of puzzle. Previous studies showed the star could be bigger than Jupiter’s orbit. But, new study suggests it only stretches out to two-thirds of that (with a radius of about 750 times greater than our Sun).

The study also shows that at this moment Betelgeuse is in early stage of burning helium in its core, meaning it is nowhere near exploding into supernova. It will take another 100,000 years or so for it to finally go supernova.

Even though the recent estimates has put Betelgeuse quite closer to Earth than previously estimated, it is still far enough to pose any threat in case of a possible supernova event.

The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be…

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