We think this gas cooled down millions of miles outside the star to form the dust that blocked the southern part of the star imaged in January and February," said Andrea Dupree, associate director of the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, and lead author on the study. "No one knows how a star behaves in the weeks before it explodes, and there were some ominous predictions that Betelgeuse was ready to become a supernova. Pulsations like those observed in Betelgeuse are typically the result of pressure waves coursing through the burning innards of a star. The star is believed to have an average luminosity about 120,000 times that of the Sun. Public Affairs As the star moved into the daytime sky and out of the view of Hubble and STELLA, researchers turned to NASA's Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory—STEREO—to monitor the supergiant's brightness. Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian We think it possible that a dark cloud resulted from the outflow that Hubble detected. Using information collected with the space-based Solar Mass Ejection Imager prior to Betelgeuse's recent drop in luminosity, the research team developed … CfA scientists, organized into six research divisions, study the origin, evolution and ultimate fate of the universe. ", And Betelgeuse held another surprise for scientists when Hubble observations revealed that the detected plasma was not ejected from the star’s rotational poles as predicted by stellar models. When the star became very faint in February 2020, this was the faintest that it had ever been since measurements began over 150 years ago," said Dupree. But summertime observations revealed a startling surprise: more unexpected dimming. "The material was two to four times more luminous than the star's normal brightness. Perhaps with an event such as we discovered on Betelgeuse? By February 2020, the star had lost more than two-thirds of its brilliance, a dimming visible even to the naked eye, creating buzz that the star might be going supernova. 520-879-4406amy.oliver@cfa.harvard.edu, CENTER FOR ASTROPHYSICS  |  HARVARD & SMITHSONIAN So we knew the dimming must have been related in one or another way to the expansion and contraction of the star’s photosphere, but it alone could not have caused such great dimming.". "When the dimming started, the blue shift became smaller and smaller and actually reverted to a redshift when the star was faintest. "Hubble observations suggest that material can be driven off from any part of the stellar surface," said Dupree, adding that recent activity on Betelgeuse was not normal for this star. Coordinates: 05 h 55 m 10.3053 s, +07° 24′ 25.426″ Classified as a red supergiant of spectral type M1-2, Betelgeuse is one of the largest stars visible to the naked eye; imag However, if Betelgeuse’s mass is actually a little but more—perhaps 20 or 22 solar masses—then it could first lose much of its outer envelope of gases through a series of violent ejections. The full results of the Hubble and STELLA studies published today in The Astrophysical Journal. "With Hubble, we had previously observed hot convection cells on the surface of Betelgeuse and in the fall of 2019 we discovered a large amount of dense hot gas moving outwards through Betelgeuse's extended atmosphere. Dupree noted that Betelgeuse is losing mass at a rate 30 million times higher than the Sun, but that recent activity resulted in a loss of roughly two times the normal amount of material from the southern hemisphere alone. Betelgeuse typically goes through brightness cycles lasting around 420 days, and since the previous minimum happened in February 2020, this new dimming is over a year early," said Dupree, who plans to observe Betelgeuse with STEREO again next year, during the star's maximum, to monitor for unexpected outbursts. Our own Sun has waves rippling throughout its body, which tells a lot about its makeup deep inside.. As a result of its high mass, Betelgeuse has evolved quickly and, even though it is less than than 10 million years old, it is nearing the end of its life cycle. Headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian (CfA) is a collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory. The star’s mass is uncertain, but estimates range from 7.7 to 20 times that of the Sun. Continued ultraviolet light spectroscopic observations with Hubble provided a timeline for researchers to follow, like breadcrumbs leading back through time to pinpoint the source of the mysterious dimming. Only Hubble gives us this evidence that led up to the dimming. Between late June and early August 2020, STEREO observed Betelgeuse on five separate days, measuring the star's relative brightness in comparison to other stars. Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory Betelgeuse is a massive star, about 700 times bigger than our sun. Intense interest surrounding Betelgeuse ignited late last year as the star continued to grow dimmer and dimmer, a behavior some scientists said signaled that the old star was about to go supernova. Is it a smooth wind blowing all the time? Amy Oliver And then, about a month later the south part of Betelgeuse dimmed conspicuously as the star grew fainter. Observations from STEREO were reported via The Astronomer's Telegram on July 28, 2020. Recent observations of Betelgeuse have revealed that the star's unexpected and significant dimming periods in late 2019 and early 2020 were most likely caused by the ejection and cooling of dense hot gases, and that the star may be going through another dimming period more than a year early. But in over a century-and-a-half, this has not happened to Betelgeuse. About Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian. The following month, several ground-based telescopes observed a decrease in brightness in Betelgeuse's southern hemisphere, as if something was blocking light in this region of the star. ", Complementary observations using the STELLAr Activity Observatory—STELLA—measured changes in the velocity of the star surface as it rose and fell during the pulsation cycle, creating a rippling effect that may have propelled the outflowing plasma through the star's atmosphere. As a variable star that expands and contracts, dimming and brightening over each cycle, "Betelgeuse is a bright star in our galaxy, near the end of its life that is likely to become a supernova. It’s very unique. "Our observations of Betelgeuse with STEREO confirm that the star is dimming again. At 725 light years away, light—and dimming—seen from Betelgeuse today on Earth left the star in the year 1300. Reference: “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: New Mass and Distance Estimates for Betelgeuse through Combined Evolutionary, Asteroseismic, and Hydrodynamic Simulations with MESA” by Meridith Joyce, Shing-Chi Leung, László Molnár, Michael Ireland, Chiaki Kobayashi and Ken’ichi Nomoto, 13 October 2020, The Astrophysical Journal. The astronomers needed better brightness observations of Betelgeuse to feed their models, so they turned to an unusual source: the Solar Mass Ejection Imager, a detector on the Department of Defense's Coriolis mission.This spacecraft was designed to observe the Sun and get a handle on its activity that can interfere with communications, as you might expect the DoD to be … The research was supported in part by STScI. 60 GARDEN STREET, CAMBRIDGE, MA 02138, Scientists Suggest Stellar "Sneeze" as Reason for Betelgeuse's Massive Dimming in Early 2020 and Say It May Be Dimming Again, Roughly 400 Days Early.

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