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Star of Mass Destruction or Supernova Outbreak: what will happen when the Betelgeuse star, the size of the solar system explodes

Star of Mass Destruction or Supernova Outbreak: what will happen when the Betelgeuse star, the size of the solar system explodes 1

According to the official cosmological theory, the Sun should not explode. Not now, not in the future. However, there is still something to explode in our Galaxy and if the blast does not happen very far, then it will have very significant consequences for our planet.

For example, Alpha Centauri, located at a distance of 4.4 light years from us, will explode, and for several weeks, its brightness, visible from the Earth, will increase so much that it will be about 1/6 of the brightness of the Sun. It will “blaze” in the Southern Hemisphere both day and night. The ice cap of Antarctica will receive a powerful heat stroke and the melting of the southern glaciers will lead to a sharp rise in the ocean level, and a sharp temperature drop will lead to the formation of numerous tornadoes. As a result, coastal cities will simply be washed off the face of the planet.

But this will happen only a few days after the second sun appears in the sky. The inhabitants of the Southern Hemisphere will immediately experience a radiation shock. Alpha Centauri’s radiation will be of such power that the Earth’s magnetic field will not be able to stop. The Radiation, having reached the surface, will thoroughly spoil everything living on it if it does not kill us. The number of mutations will increase hundreds and thousands of times, the birth of a healthy child will become the same miracle as the birth of Siamese twins is now.

A cloud left over from the explosion of supernova SN 1987A.
A 3d model of a cloud left over from the explosion of supernova SN 1987A. 

But that’s not all. About three decades after Alpha Centauri goes out, a cloud of dust and gas ejected by it will reach the solar system. This cloud will be so dense that the Sun will fade in our sky, its brightness will fall by half and a new ice age will begin on the planet.

Fortunately, Alpha Centauri falls short of a supernova. It is roughly equal in mass to the Sun. A more realistic candidate for this role is Sirius, 8 light years away from us, which is twice as heavy as our star. But you don’t have to worry too much about it either. The consequences of its explosion will be much milder – it will do without a particularly noticeable thermal shock and dust attack. We are also likely to withstand its radiation strike.

This is how the Hubble Space Telescope "sees" Sirius.
This is how the Hubble Space Telescope “sees” Sirius.

At 160 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Pegasus, is the closest red giant to us named Scheat (Beta Pegasi), its diameter is about 110 times greater than the sun. The age of such stars is short and is only a few hundred million years (for comparison, we recall that the dinosaurs died out 60 million years ago, and before that they reigned on the planet for almost 200 million years).

The diameter of the red giant Scheat is about 110 times that of the sun.
The diameter of the red giant Scheat is about 110 times that of the sun. 

But Scheat is almost a toy, if you compare this star with the red giant Mira, which lives in the constellation Cetus at a distance of 230 light years from Earth. This celestial object is 420 times larger than our yellow star. If Mira were located in the center of our system, then Jupiter would orbit in close proximity to it. And this star can explode at any moment.

If we look even further, we will find more massive stars. At a distance of about 500 light years, there are three of them: Ras Algete from the constellation Hercules covers the diameter of the Sun by 500 times, Antares from Scorpio by 640 times, and Betelgeuse in Orion by 750 times. The diameter of the latter approaches the diameter of the orbit of Saturn, that is, this ball is slightly smaller in size than the entire solar system. And it is ready to explode at any moment.

Canadian scientists Dale Russell and Thacker Wallace explain the extinction of dinosaurs by a sharp increase in radiation from a supernova explosion close to Earth. According to them, the explosion caused a sharp cooling, and ultraviolet and X-ray radiation could increase hundreds of times in just a few days. 

The explosion of Betelgeuse will entail much greater consequences. In our sky, for several months it will turn into a second moon, full and shining day and night. One consolation: the dust from Betelgeuse to the Earth will reach us for more than one thousand years. If humanity can survive the outbreak itself, then we will have time to prepare for the arrival of space debris.

And the explosion should happen literally any day. Betelgeuse, unlike many other red giants known to us, is already behaving extremely restlessly. It constantly pulsates, sometimes shrinking to the size of Ros Algete, then again expanding to its previous size. When, at the end of the last century, astronomers photographed the giant in the infrared range, it was found that the star is surrounded by a shell of gas, 400 times the size of the solar system. This may indicate that the transformation of the supergiant into a supernova has already begun. The collapse should be expected in the coming years. 

There is a version that Betelgeuse has already exploded several centuries ago. Now the shock wave of superhard radiation from it is flying towards us, and its flight is almost 600 years old.

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