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Betelgeuse’s Recent Dimming Likely Caused by a Dusty Outburst

13 Aug 2020, 21:34 UTC
Betelgeuse’s Recent Dimming Likely Caused by a Dusty Outburst
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From October 2019 to February 2020, Betelgeuse (the bright orange star at Orion’s right shoulder, not Tim Burton’s magical necroprankster) was seen to dim dramatically, even more so than it typically does. It was something that wasn’t just observed with telescopes but also it was quite obvious to the naked eye from most locations. This led many observers to wonder if that was in fact an indication that the red supergiant was about to explode in a supernova—which, based on its size and type, it one day will.* When that does happen it will be the closest such event to Earth in modern history and, although at its distance there would be no direct physical danger to us, it would put on a very dramatic show in the sky for at least a few months. So even while most astronomers were nearly 100% certain that Betelgeuse’s explosive demise wasn’t actually upon us, it became one of those “what-if” moments when far-fetched speculation was coupled with a bit of astronomical fantasizing.
But what did cause the obvious dimming of Betelgeuse, during which time it was just a third of its usual brightness? Recent analysis of data acquired with the Hubble Space ...

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