The mystery of Betelgeuse's low brightness has been solved - by chance, by a Japanese satellite

Betelgeuse It is the tenth brightest star in the sky. It gets dark from time to timewhich was probably already observed in antiquity. This was confirmed in the years 1839-1840 by the astronomer John Herschel.

The loss of its brightness is not the same every time, but it is always fairly slight. But In 2019, Gemini’s shoulders eased much moreBy up to two-thirds. From the tenth brightest star in the night sky, he became only the twentieth star.

In early 2020, Betelgeuse’s radiance grew stronger and returned to average by the end of spring. What happened to Belgium at the beginning of 2019 and 2020?

A team of astronomers has published images taken by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile in 2021. In the work published in the journal “Nature” scientists suggested that Betelgeuse obscured by a cloud of dust.

Betelgeuse red giant. They are restless stars with a very turbulent inner life. The astronomers concluded that at the turn of 2019 and 2020, A giant gas bubble has reached the surface of the star Inside – this is not unusual for red giants.

As the gases moved away from the star’s surface, their temperature dropped. The heavier elements they contain (such as carbon and silicon) form a cloud of dust. It was he who blocked out the star’s glare.

Now researchers from the University of Tokyo have found evidence of this in a completely unexpected place. These are images from the meteorological satellite.

Himawari 8 He constantly monitors the sky over Japan from a geostationary orbit, approximately 36,000 km above the Earth. The satellite’s field of view is wider than the Earth’s surface, and it can see some stars.

Betelgeuse in his country lens once a day. Ground-based telescopes do not usually observe a single point of the sky for a long and regular period. The satellite had been staring at the same place for many years.

Earth’s telescopes also don’t detect infrared radiation, because the atmosphere absorbs most of this range of radiation (which is why the Webb telescope is sent into space). Meteorological satellites monitor the Earth in this range to be able to see the clouds on its night side.

Infrared observations of the universe allow you to see more than visible light (they are especially suitable for observing gases and dust). Himawari 8 . Satellite Images From 2017-2020 they were very valuable. In “natural astronomy” Confirm that Betelgeuse was obscured by dust.

Japanese researchers now plan to use valuable data from Himawari 8 to observe other stars. And the They urged other meteorological satellites to make the images available to astronomers as well.

The decrease in the brightness of Betelgeuse caused a sensation in 2020 due to The red giants suddenly end. Astrophysicists estimate that Betelgeuse will explode as a supernova within 100,000 years. A decrease in brightness can foreshadow the onset of this event.

When Betelgeuse will explode in a supernovaIt will be brighter than the moon. Such a supernova has not been observed since 1604, when the supernova exploded in the constellation Ophiuchus, described by Johannes Kepler in “De Stella Nova”. Earlier, in 1572, Tycho Brache noticed a supernova in the constellation Cassiopeia.

Will it happen in this century? Well, the chances of that are one in a hundred.

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