The star Betelgeuse has been in the news a lot recently, and not necessarily for good reasons.
This red supergiant star, which is about 1000 times larger than our sun, has been showing off some impressive features in the past few years.
In 2016, astronomers observed large sunspot-like features on Betelgeuse’s surface. These features were about the size of Earth and were the first ever observed on a star other than our own sun.
More recently, in January of this year, a very bright flash was observed coming from Betelgeuse. This flash was very likely caused by what is called a carbon detonation event.
These events are thought to be caused by carbon rich materials in the stellar interior being heated and vaporized before being blasted to the surface and escaping as a very bright flash.
Betelgeuse is expected to go supernova within the next million years or so, but there is no way to know when exactly it will happen.
How big would the explosion be?
Astrophysicists estimate that if the star Betelgeuse went supernova, the explosion would be brighter than every other star in the night sky combined, for about a week!
That’s because it’s a red giant, a very large and luminous class of stars. Red giants are so named because they are reddish in color.
Because Betelgeuse is so big, the explosion would also be really big. It has been theorized that a supernova caused the Ordovician-Silurian extinction event 450 million years ago. The explosion was likely caused by a red giant star.
Because it is close to Earth, the radiation emitted by Betelgeuse could have serious consequences for life on our planet. However, since no such event has ever been recorded, it is difficult to predict what would happen.
What would happen to Earth?
So, let’s say Betelgeuse did go supernova tomorrow. What would happen to Earth? Well, first of all, we wouldn’t know about it until it happened.
Until then, we would only be able to speculate on when or if it would happen. Since no one has ever seen a supernova in our own galaxy, studying it would be difficult.
Since no one has ever recorded a direct hit by a Betelgeuse-sized object in our solar system either, it’s hard to say what the effects would be.
However, since we know what kind of effects a similar size object has had on the solar system in the past, we can make an educated guess. And none of them are good for us.
For one, if Betelgeuse were to suddenly explode, the heat generated from that explosion would instantly turn all the surrounding material into plasma—that is, ionized gas consisting of atoms and molecules with lost electrons. This is not good for us either.
How common are supernova explosions?
Supernova explosions happen fairly frequently in our galaxy, the Milky Way. The latest research suggests that a supernova happens roughly every 100 years in our galaxy.
Aside from this, researchers estimate that 1-2 supernovas explode per year in the entire observable universe!
Supernovas occur when a star runs out of fuel and explodes. So Betelgeuse might be getting ready to go out with a bang, but it won’t be the first time it has done so. It has already exploded before and is likely to explode again.
Supernovas are so spectacular because of how much energy they release during their explosion. This energy is released in two ways: radiation and gravitational pull. Both of these play a significant role in what happens next after the supernova occurs.
What caused Betelgeuse to become a red star?
Red supergiants are believed to undergo explosions when their cores is depleted of nuclear fuels. When this happens, the star can no longer sustain its size or temperature, so it collapses in on itself and rebounds as a smaller, cooler star.
This is called a collapse explosion, or a violent supernova. Other factors that may influence the explosion include how mixed up the nuclear materials are and how many lighter elements there are.
Betelgeuse might have more light elements than other red supergiant cores, which might make its collapse more explosive. We don’t know for sure, but it is possible!
Red supergiants actually aren’t very big for stars — Betelgeuse is about the size of Jupiter. Because of this, when it collapses and rebounds, it might form a different type of star — one that’s very compact and hot. This is called a neutron star.
Could it cause an asteroid strike?
Betelgeuse is a red supergiant star, meaning it is exceptionally large. It is one of the largest known stars, in fact. Because it is a red supergiant, Betelgeuse has passed its life span and is now in the process of exploding. This process is called a supernova.
When a star like our sun runs out of fuel, it swells up and becomes a red giant. But if the star is particularly large, like Betelgeuse, it will actually split into two stars before swelling up. Our sun would not do this, but Betelgeuse probably would.
When this happens, the new smaller star will pull away some of the surrounding material in the system. This material will then fall onto it, causing growth in size until it hits the threshold for nuclear fusion and becomes a red giant itself. This repeats until there is only one red giant left.-Bustle
Could an explosion as large as Betelgeuse’s trigger an asteroid strike on Earth? According to Bustle’s report on astrobiology researcher Christopher Mansky from Mount Saint Mary’s University in California, there’s no evidence that this kind of event has ever happened before.
Is there any way to detect an impending supernova?
Supernovae are hard to detect before they happen, but once they do, it is easy to see them. The problem is that by the time we could detect a supernova, it would be too late.
Supernovae are the deadliest events in the universe. A supernova can outshine its entire galaxy and even ours for a few days. This is because a supernova is not just one explosion, but two.
The first explosion is what scientists call a collapse core-collapse fireball event. This happens when a star runs out of fuel and its internal pressure drops. Then all that’s left supporting the star is its outer shell-which isn’t much.
This causes the inner part of the star to collapse onto itself which creates an incredibly hot, dense core called a neutron star or black hole depending on how heavy it is.