A few weeks ago I wrote about the “Betelgeuse problem” which asks the question: why is it dimming? A lot of people are really in love with the idea that it’s going to blow up soon. I have to admit, it’s a fascinating thought, that we would get to see a giant star blow itself to smithereens from a safe distance of about 700 hundred light-years. But, it’s probably not what’s going to happen. At least, not just yet.
Taking a Direct Look at Betelgeuse
Figuring out exactly what IS happening with this star is complex. We know it’s an old star. Those aged, dying supergiants get a little eccentric in their final epochs of life. Astronomers have a general idea of what’s going on inside Betelgeuse, but that doesn’t explain why its appearance is changing. It could be due to some kind of stellar activity affecting its appearance and apparent size and shape. Could the surface be cooling for some reason? If so, what would explain that?
Another idea is that the star is ejecting dust away from itself. It ends up as clouds in the line of sight between us and the star. Such clouds could ...