Betelgeuse, brutal explosion on the “Shoulder of the Giant”, the red giant star of the Orion Constellation

Betelgeuse, brutal explosion on the “Shoulder of the Giant”, the red giant star of the Orion Constellation
Betelgeuse, brutal explosion on the “Shoulder of the Giant”, the red giant star of the Orion Constellation
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The explosion that caused a piece of Betelgeuse’s surface to be lost occurred in 2019 and was filmed in recent weeks by the Hubble telescope

The «Shoulder of the GiantIs healing, even if his fate is sealed and the end is approaching, albeit with the extended times that govern the universe. Are we speaking in Arabic? Basically yes, because the reference is a Betelgeuse, a red supergiant, the second brightest star in the constellation of Orion (only Rigel beats it). Its name derives from the term Yad al-Jawza: underarm or shoulder of the Giant, in fact.

If at night, preferably in the period between November and May when the constellation straddles the celestial equator and is visible from almost all places on Earth, you have searched the unmistakable form of Orionyou will have discovered, in addition to the famous belt, Beltelgeuse: it is at the north-eastern summit and stands out for its intense orange color, which contrasts with the blue of the other stars in this area.

Well, in these weeks the Hubble Space Telescopemanaged by NASA and ESA, the European Space Agency, is witnessing “live” the shooting of the star from a catastrophic event that occurred in 2019. A brutal explosion lost a large portion of its surface dispersing into space a mass 400 billion times larger than that emitted in a typical solar flare. A tremendous “wound”: interpreting what was collected by Hubble and other devices, scientists came to the conclusion that it was created a plume of ejected dust more than 1 million miles in diameter, equal to 1.6 million kilometers. It is really difficult, for our parameters, to get an idea of ​​the power of this stellar earthquake.

It was a terrible and unprecedented event. A study published in The Astrophysical Journal and coordinated by the US Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Andrea Dupree he was leading the group of experts and did not hide his surprise: “We have never seen a huge mass ejection from the surface of a star; we have something on our hands that we do not fully understand. However, this new scenario allows us to watch the evolution of Betelgeuse in real time ». Or the healing, as mentioned.

The eruption blew up a piece of the star’s lower atmosphere – the photosphere – leaving behind a cool spot that was further occluded by the dust cloud from the explosion. The ejected part of the surface, weighing several times that of the Moon, has moved away into space and cooled to form a cloud of dust that blocked the star’s light, causing its partial darkening. Also, prior to the eruption, the red supergiant had a pulsating pattern, dimming and brightening over a 400-day cycle. This feature has now disappeared, or in the alternative suspended. «It is possible – Dupree points out – that the convection cells inside the star are still sliding around, disrupting this pattern. The star’s outer atmosphere may have returned to normal, but its surface may still wobble. ‘

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At first, scientists speculated that the star, 530 light years from Earth, was nearing the end: it seems instead that the violent eruption is not a sign of this event. Confirm rather than old stars lose mass. But not even the “Shoulder of the Giant” will not escape the terminus: at the end of its stellar life it will explode in a supernova also visible from our planet. How soon will it happen? Approximately 100,000 years – so scientists say.

02 September

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The article is in Italian

Tags: Betelgeuse brutal explosion Shoulder Giant red giant star Orion Constellation

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