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Betelgeuse star acting like it’s about to explode, even if the odds say it isn’t

Betelgeuse star acting like it’s about to explode, even if the odds say it isn’t 86

Source: CNet

One of the brightest stars in the sky — the nearby red supergiant Betelgeuse in the constellation Orion — has fainted in recent months, meaning it’s significantly less bright than usual. And that’s leading to excited speculation the monster star could soon go supernova.

Astronomers from Villanova University in Pennsylvania reported earlier this month that Betelgeuse is at a “modern all-time low” magnitude, which is a measure of brightness.

An update from the same team on Monday said that the star has continued to dim over the past two weeks: so much, in fact, that it has gone from being one of the top 10 brightest stars in the sky to about the 21st brightest star.

One of two things could be happening here: Betelgeuse is a variable star that has been dimming and re-brightening for millennia at this point. We could
just be seeing its most significant dip in the past half-century or so,
which is less than the blink of an eye in this star’s lifespan. Most of
the scientists who have chimed in about the big red star in recent weeks
on social media believe this is most likely what’s going down.

“Stars in the later phases of their life go through a lot of variability that we can’t fully explain yet … It probably still has tens of thousands of years, if not 100,000 (left),” astronomer Yvette Cendes of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics wrote Friday on Reddit.

The other possibility is that Betelgeuse is finally out of fuel and it has
begun to collapse in on itself — a process that is expected to end in a
spectacular supernova explosion.

Rutgers University physicist Matthew Buckley also jokingly suggested that a highly advanced alien civilization could be to blame for Betelgeuse’s recent dimming.

“No one is asking the real question: Is its dimming a sign that someone is
finishing a Dyson sphere around it?” he wrote on Twitter Monday.

A Dyson sphere is a hypothetical megastructure that a super technological society might construct around a star to collect a significant amount of its energy. Imagine something like massive rings of solar panels circling or even encapsulating the sun. Such megastructures have been suggested as possible, if highly unlikely, explanations for the odd behavior of other dimming stars and stars that seem to have disappeared from the sky.

The star is hundreds of light years from Earth, which is close in terms of the cosmos, but far enough away that we don’t have to worry about being caught up in a supernova blast. There are some interesting studies out that suggest life on Earth has been affected by nearby supernovas in the past, but even if there is some cause for concern there, the good news is that we’ll see Betelgeuse blow hundreds of years before the blast reaches Earth. According to astronomer Sten Odenwald, it would be about another 100,00 years before what’s left of the explosion and its highly energetic x-rays arrive, and we’ll be protected from them by the magnetic fields of our own sun and Earth.

When Betelgeuse does go supernova — as most astronomers believe is
inevitable — it will be a huge show. The exploding star will be visible
during daylight and might even be brighter than the moon at night. The
last such visible supernova in the Milky Way was Kepler’s Supernova, all
the way back in 1604, which was obvious during the day for over three
weeks. Betelgeuse is at least 10 times closer to Earth and has a
mind-boggling radius that would extend to engulf not only all of our
inner solar system if it was put in place of the sun, but also Jupiter.

A number of astronomers are making sure to throw lots of cosmic cold water of the notion of Betelgeuse going supernova in the near term. NASA’s Eric Mamajek points to research finding the odds of the event happening in the coming decades at about a tenth of a percent and notes that accounts of the star’s long history of variable brightening and dimming can even be found in Australian Aboriginal oral tradition.

Astrophysicist Heloise Stavance even made a handy infographic breaking down the data:

So, we’re probably not going to get a second moon in the sky for the holidays, at least not from the direction of Betelgeuse.

“It’s not even the star closest to going supernova — that honor goes to Eta Carinae,” Cendes says.

Eta Carinae is a two-star system about 10 times further away that’s already been erupting in its own spectacular death throes for decades now. It may actually be the next star system to light up daytime. Either way, keep an eye on the sky!

Source: CNet



KOI-5Ab, the curious planet that orbits in a system of three suns

KOI-5Ab, the curious planet that orbits in a system of three suns 97
Photo: (Caltech / R. Hurt (IPAC))

To us, the Sun alone seems perfectly normal, but our solar system is actually a strange exception.

Most stars in the Milky Way galaxy have at least one companion star. In a system 1,800 light-years away, astronomers have finally confirmed the existence of a gas giant planet orbiting stars in a triple star system.

Called KOI-5, the system is located in the constellation Cygnus, and the exoplanet was confirmed ten years after it was first detected by the Kepler space telescope.

In fact, the planet – now known as KOI-5Ab – was discovered by Kepler when it began operations back in 2009.

“KOI-5Ab was dropped because it was difficult and we had thousands of other candidates,” astronomer David Siardi of NASA’s Exoplanet Science Institute said.

“There were lighter dives than the KOI-5Ab, and every day we learned something new from Kepler, so the KOI-5 was almost forgotten.”

Exoplanet hunters tend to avoid the complexities of multi-star systems; of the more than 4,300 exoplanets confirmed to date, less than 10 percent are multi-star systems, although such systems dominate the galaxy. As a result, little is known about the properties of exoplanets in multi-star systems compared to those orbiting a lone star.

After Kepler’s discovery, Chardy and other astronomers used ground-based telescopes such as the Palomar Observatory, Keck Observatory, and the Gemini North Telescope to study the system. By 2014, they had identified two companion stars, KOI-5B and KOI-5C.

Scientists were able to establish that the planet KOI-5Ab, is a gas giant that is about half the mass of Saturn and 7 times the size of Earth, and is in a very close five-day orbit around KOI-5A. KOI-5A and KOI-5B, both of roughly the same mass as the Sun, form a relatively close binary system with an orbital period of about 30 years.

KOI-5Ab, the curious planet that orbits in a system of three suns 98

A third star, KOI-5C, orbits the binary system at a much greater distance, with a period of about 400 years – slightly longer than Pluto’s 248-year orbit.

“By studying this system in more detail, perhaps we can understand how planets are created in the universe.”

The discovery was announced at the 237th meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

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Why the universe does not fit into science

Why the universe does not fit into science 99
Photo: YouTube

Science can be compared to an artist painting what he has never seen, or to a writer describing other people’s travels: objects that he has never seen, places where he has never been. Sometimes such scientific “arts” turn out to be beautiful and interesting, but most of them will forever remain only theories, because they are beyond human capabilities.

In fact, science has the right only to speculate: how our universe appeared, how old it is, how many stars and other objects it contains.

Universe model

Why the universe does not fit into science 100

How many stars are there in the sky?

With an unarmed eye, a person can see about nine thousand stars in the sky in one cloudless and moonless night. And armed with binoculars or a telescope, much more – up to several million. However, this is much less than their true number in the universe. Indeed, only in our one galaxy (the Milky Way) there are about 400 billion stars. The exact amount, of course, is not known to science. And the visible universe contains about 170 billion galaxies.

It is worth clarifying that scientists can see the universe 46 billion light years deep in all directions. And the visible (observable) universe includes the space accessible to our eyes from the moment of the Big Explosion. In other words, only this (accessible to human perception) space science refers to our universe. Science does not consider everything that follows.

It is believed that there are supposedly a ceptillion (10 to 24 degrees) stars in our universe. These are theoretical calculations based on the approximate size and age of the universe. The origin of the universe is explained by the Big Bang theory. This is why the universe is constantly expanding and the more time passes, the more complex the universe and its components become.

Why the universe does not fit into science 101

It is not entirely correct to consider and perceive this scientific theory “head-on”. Scientists always claim that that explosion was not exactly an explosion, and the point that exploded was not the only one. After all, it was everywhere, because space did not exist then. And in general – everything happened quite differently from what is described in the Big Bang theory, but all other descriptions of the origin of the universe are even more incredible and inaccurate.

Separate but interconnected

That which is beyond the reach of human perception is usually discarded by science, or recognized as non-existent. Recognizing one thing, science does not want to recognize the existence of the other, although everything in our world is interconnected and is not able to exist separately – by itself.

Each object of the universe is a part of it much more than an independent, separate object.

Any person, like any material object of our world, consists of components: organs, cells, molecules, atoms. And each of its constituent parts can represent the whole world. Separate, and at the same time connected with all the others.

However, science, as a rule, perceives all the components of the universe – people, animals, plants, objects, the Earth, the Sun, other planets and stars – as separate subjects, thereby limiting itself.

Why the universe does not fit into science 102

Even what is considered the visible universe, one of the atoms of which could be called our solar system, is not subject to the boundaries of human perception. But perhaps the atom is an exaggeration, and our solar system is not even an atom, but one of its elements!

How, being so far from the truth, can one reason about something with the degree of probability with which science tries to reason about the origin of the universe?

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An unexplained wobble shifts the poles of Mars

An unexplained wobble shifts the poles of Mars 103

The red planet sways from side to side like a whirligig when it loses speed. The new study allowed scientists to notice that the poles of Mars deviate slightly from the axis of rotation of the planet. On average, they move 10 cm from the center with a period of 200 days.

Such changes are called the Chandler Oscillations  – after the American astronomer Seth Chandler, who discovered them in 1891. Previously, they were only seen on Earth. It is known that the displacement of the poles of rotation of our planet occurs with a period of 433 days, while the amplitude reaches 15 meters. There is no exact answer why this is happening. It is believed that the fluctuations are influenced by processes in the ocean and the Earth’s atmosphere.

Chandler’s wobbles on Mars are equally perplexing. The authors of the study discovered them by comparing data from 18 years of studying the planet. The information was obtained thanks to three spacecraft that orbit the Red Planet: Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Global Surveyor. 

Since Mars has no oceans, it is likely that the Red Planet’s wobbly rotation is due to changes in atmospheric pressure. This is the first explanation that researchers have shared. In the future, there should be new details about the fluctuations that have so interested the scientific community.

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