Astronomy: The Betelgeuse star is still very pale – World

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Astronomers have managed to capture new images of the giant star Betelgeuse. They show that one of the brightest stars in the Milky Way has lost much of its luminosity in recent months, according to a statement from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) published on Friday.

The images, taken thanks to ESO’s Very Large Telescope, a set of four large telescopes, make it possible to visualize the surface of this “red supergiant” located in the constellation of Orion, showing its fading, as well as an apparent change of its shape.

The star was among the ten brightest in the galaxy, but since mid-November 2019, its luminosity has dropped drastically, which has put astronomers in turmoil and launched a vast campaign of observations.

Thanks to SPHERE

The images revealed this Friday were made possible by the SPHERE instrument, installed on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile. “We can clearly see that the star’s brightness has dropped on half of its apparent surface,” said Miguel Montargès, astrophysicist at KU Leuven University, in Belgium.

“It seems from these images that the brightness is still decreasing, but less quickly,” he added. Several hypotheses have been put forward: it could be an ejection of gas forming dust and hiding the radiation, or even the agony of Betelgeuse.

Explosion in supernova

This last scenario would result in a supernova explosion. If it seems unlikely in the near future, it makes astronomers dream: the star at the end of its life having no more “fuel” (from nuclear fusion), its heart would collapse on itself and would form a neutron star, a very compact object that creates a shock wave completely dislocating the star, all in just a few hours.

But “a priori, what we see on the images does not seem to be linked to a possible explosion”, according to Eric Lagadec (Observatory of the Côte d’Azur). According to him, the change in the shape of the star is linked either to “cooling or to dust that has formed near the star”. (Ps / nxp)

Created: 02-14-2020, 4:26 p.m.

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