Betelgeuse dimming caused by outburst


Genesis cover

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The uncertainty of science: According to new data from the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers are now proposing that the dimming seen earlier this year in the red giant Betelgeuse was caused not by a known variation cycle or by a large starspot moving across its surface, but by an large outburst of material, thrown out from the star.

Ultraviolet observations by the Hubble Space Telescope suggest that the unexpected dimming was probably caused by an immense amount of superhot material ejected into space. The material cooled and formed a dust cloud that blocked the starlight coming from about a quarter of Betelgeuse’s surface.

That we now have three creditable but different theories, all based on evidence, for explaining the dimming that occurred from October 2019 to April 2020 suggests that we really still have no idea what specifically caused it. All three theories however are based on what we do know about Betelgeuse, that it is giant blobby gasbag that has dark starspots on its surface, that has giant convection cells that bubble up from below and release material periodically, and that it pulses in a variety of cycles predictably over time.

It could be any of these phenomenon that caused last year’s dimming, or even a combination of two or more. The information available so far is just too sketchy to pin this down more precisely.

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One comment

  • LocalFluff

    It’s an gigantic attenuated plasma bubble. Maybe it has a still fusing core in its death twitch producing something which is neither a starspot nor a dust cloud. Or is both? But I would think it strange if this were something passing it by, and not emerging from its center, as huge as it is. (Stellar physics IS strange to me, so I won’t say no).

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