The Betelgeuse is one of the brightest stars in our sky, but on Friday it is duller than we have ever seen, according to the American astronomer Edward Guinan of the University of Vilanova. Astronomers worldwide have been glued to the telescope: is the reduced brightness a harbinger of a supernova, a huge explosion that must be visible to the naked eye despite the enormous distance between the earth and the star? And when should this take place?
Betelgeuze is a huge star that is 1,400 times as large as 'our' sun. However, astronomer Alex de Koter is dampening expectations. "The chance is small that it will actually come to a supernova this night or this week."
"An explosion is guaranteed to take place within the next 100,000 years, when the heavy star comes to the end of its life, but I cannot say that it will happen soon."
According to him, the reason for dimming the star is still being guessed, which now only has 36 percent of the total brightness. However, a large cloud of star dust is not excluded as the cause of the limited brightness. In recent years, astronomers around the world have often expected the star to explode.
De Koter also hopes that the super giant will explode because of the "visual spectacle". De Koter: "The sky will become extremely clear for at least a hundred days, both at night and during the day: that is not to be missed with the harsh weather conditions in the Netherlands. Super-giant Betelgeuse will emit light that is just as strong as the Moon, and one hundred times as clear as Venus. " Despite the reduced brightness, Betelgeuze is still in the top 25 of the brightest stars.
VideoThe Betelgeuse star may explode, what about that?
First potential supernova since 1604
In 1604, humans were given the last chance to see a supernova, when Kepler's star exploded. That explosion actually took place 20,000 years ago, but because there is the same number of light years difference between the star and the earth, the explosion could only be seen much later.
There are more than 700 light-years difference between Betelgeuse and the earth, as a result of which the possible explosion actually took place during the Middle Ages.
Supernova may provide 'new Betelgeuze'
With a supernova a huge amount of gas is released that is thrown into space at high speed, according to De Koter. The explosion can indirectly lead to new super giants such as Betelgeuse, if it comes into contact with gas clouds already floating around the room. "It can, as it were, collapse and form several small stars, but also heavy stars such as Betelgeuse," says De Koter.
That is also one of the few effects: the earth will not experience any problems or inconvenience due to a possible explosion, the astronomer assures. He himself does not stay awake the coming nights to keep an eye on the star. "I think it is a very cool and special event and I hope the star will explode, but I fear we will have to wait."
The photo above this article is an impression of a supernova, not the Betelgeuse himself.