The fate of the Betelgeuse star, in the constellation of Orion, intrigues scientists and the general public. However, the star is not as unusual as one might think. Other stars have undergone comparable developments.
What's going on in Betelgeuse? The fate of this star has been particularly publicized in recent months. The luminosity of the star is weakening, which could suggest that the red supergiant is about to become a supernova (a star arriving at the end of its life which explodes). However, this event is unlikely to occur. Besides, the fate of the star is not as unique as you might think.
A team of scientists has succeeded in obtaining a new image of the star, which shows its loss of radiance and a notable change in its shape. The picture is impressive, but it should not be forgotten that Betelgeuse is not a case apart from that. ” Betelgeuse is not the only star in this case, there are other stars who have already experienced a similar fate “Explains to Numerama Miguel Montargès, astronomer at the KU Leuven in Belgium. He leads the research team that obtained the new image.
L2 Puppis, Mira or Eta Carinae: other stars that have stood out
The specialist cites several examples of stars whose behavior may have seemed intriguing in the past. In the early 2000s, scientists find that the star L2 Puppis, located in the constellation of the Stern, ceases to be visible. The reason for this change is identified: it is explained by the presence of a dust disk. We discovered that this red giant was surrounded by an imposing dusty disc, located 900 million kilometers from the star (far more than the distance between Jupiter and the Sun).
Other stars experience falls in their apparent luminosity much more imposing than that which occurs at Betelgeuse. ” This is also the case of the star Mira, whose brightness can vary in 6 months, continues Miguel Montargès. Its magnitude can go from 2 to 9. ” The magnitude of a star allows you to estimate its apparent brightness: the brighter an object, the lower its magnitude (it can be negative, like that of the full moon for example). Mira, located in the constellation of the Whale, knows periodic variations which explain why it is sometimes not possible to see it with the naked eye. ” Beside, the decrease in brightness of Betelgeuse is limited, it is 400 times less significant “Describes Miguel Montargès.
Another example: the star Eta Carinae, located in the constellation Carina. ” The star Eta Carinae also experienced a major explosion in the 19th century and got caught in a dust shell “Describes the astronomer. The scientists then understood that this gigantic eruption was linked to the expulsion, by one of the stars composing the Eta Carinae system, of large quantities of gas and dust.
Even if Betelgeuse is less atypical than one might have thought, it must be recognized that the fate of the star is arousing very lively interest. How to explain it? ” The popularity of Betelgeuse is undoubtedly due to several factors. First, it is in the constellation Orion, the easiest in the sky to spot with the naked eye. The Betelgeuse star is easy to identify, especially with the blue-red contrast it forms with another star, Rigel “Describes Miguel Montargès. For many astronomers, Betelgeuse was undoubtedly one of the first stars they learned to spot in the sky. Less surprising, therefore, that its curious oscillations are so fascinating.