Astronomers Were Puzzled by “Great Dimming” of Betelgeuse – Now the Mystery Is Solved

Betelgeuse

When Betelgeuse, a bright orange star in the constellation of Orion, became visibly darker in late 2019 and early 2020, the astronomy community was puzzled. A team of astronomers have now published new images of the star’s surface, taken using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (ESO’s VLT), that clearly show how its brightness changed.

Is Betelgeuse about to Blow?

One of the most recognizable stars in the night sky, and also one of the biggest is about to go supernova. An explosion so big, it could be visible during the day and appear brighter than the full moon at night, for a few weeks.

The last time humans were treated to such a sight was the 17th century when a Type ONE-A star exploded in the constellation Ophiuchus. And Betelgeuse could be next. 

Over the past few months, the Red Giant has been getting dimmer at an unprecedented pace. This effect could be the result of massive sunspots, stellar dust or indicate the beginning stages of collapse. It’s well known Betelgeuse has no more than about 100,000 years left to burn and could start its death throes just about anytime between now and then, so mark your calendars!

The latest data suggests dimming could be the result an extended 430-day pulsation.  If this is the case, it should reach the low point towards the end of February 2020. However, Betelgeuse still appears to be even dimmer than it should be during such an extended pulsation. This could mean there are multiple factors at work in the fainting of this giant star. Whatever it is, “Something very unusual is going on,” (Guinan says.) 

So keep an eye on the skies. You can see Betelgeuse from November to February in the Southwestern Sky for our Northern Hemisphere viewers and  Northwestern sky if you’re in the Souther Hemisphere. Best seen between latitudes 85 and minus 75 degrees. Its right ascension is 5 hours, with a declination of 5 degrees, or simply, Orion’s right Shoulder.

Check back for up to the minute reports on what could the fireworks show of a lifetime.