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Betelgeuse keeps getting dimmer, and everyone is wondering what exactly that means. The star will go supernova at the end of its life, but that's not projected to happen for tens of thousands of years or so. So what's causing the dimming?
Villanova University astronomers Edward Guinan and Richard Wasatonic were the first to report Betelgeuse's recent dimming. In a new post on The Astronomer's Telegram, the pair of astronomers report a further dimming of Betelgeuse. They also point out that although the star is still dimming, its rate of dimming is slowing.
Betelgeuse - Star - Constellation - Orion - Sequence
Betelgeuse is a red supergiant star in the constellation Orion. It left the main sequence about 1 million years ago, and has been a red supergiant for about 40,000 years. It's a core-collapse SN II progenitor, which means that eventually, Betelgeuse will burn enough of its hydrogen that its core will collapse and it will explode as a supernova.
It's known as a semi-regular variable star, which means its brightness is variable. One of its cycles is about 420 days long, and another is about five or six years. A third cycle is shorter; about 100 to 180 days. Though most of its fluctuations are predictable and follow these cycles, some of them are not, like the current dimming.
Astronomers - Betelgeuse - Time - Estimates - Star
Astronomers have been monitoring Betelgeuse for a long time. Visual estimates of the star go back about 180 years, and since the 1920s, the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) have taken more systematic measurements. About 40 years ago, astronomers at Villanova University began taking systematic photometric measurements of Betelgeuse's brightness. The photometry data from the last 25 years is the most thorough, and according to that data the star is as dim as it's ever been.
According to Guinan and Wasatonic's post on Astronomer's Telegram, Betelgeuse's temperature has dropped by 100...
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