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The mysterious dimming of the bright giant Betelgeuse

Tuesday, August 10, 2021 20:00 PM (GMT+7)

The mysterious strange dimming seen last year in the giant star Betelgeuse could be due to the giant sunspots and temperature fluctuations. Astronomers in a new study say it will take hundreds of years for Betelgeuse to cool temporarily.

It will take hundreds of years for the bright star Betelgeuse to cool down.

A new study shows that a “major dark spot” leads to a drop in Betelgeuse’s surface temperature, thereby contributing to a temporary decrease in the luminosity or inherent brightness of the red giant.

This dramatic decline has made headlines around the world in 2020 as speculation about what’s going on. The science is still unknown, but astronomers are blaming everything from the emission of gas clouds, to dust, to the oscillations of stars before Betelgeuse eventually explodes as a supernova. .

New research led by the Chinese Academy of Sciences looked at molecules in Betelgeuse’s spectrum to try to figure out what was going on. To do so, they used the Weihai Observatory (based at Shandong University in Jinan) four times in 2020 during dim and re-light periods: on Jan. 31, Jan. 19/ 3, 4/4 and 6/4.

To estimate the star’s temperature, astronomers examined molecules of titanium oxide and cyanide, which tend to form more easily in colder stellar environments.

“The colder the star, the more these molecules can form and persist in its atmosphere – and the stronger the molecular lines in the star’s spectrum,” lead author Sofya Alexeeva said in a statement. issued on 5/8.

From late 2019 to early 2020, Betelgeuse became 2.5 times dimmer, the most significant dimming observed in recent decades.

But when the star returned to its normal luminosity, measurements showed a temperature increase of nearly 5% to 3,646 Kelvin (about 3,370 degrees Celsius).

Astronomers say in a research paper published August 5 in the journal Nature Communications that Betelgeuse could be hundreds of years away from cooling off temporarily. Instead, it should be a sunspot – or rather, a “stellar spot” – blocking some of Betelgeuse’s radiation from escaping.

Star spots, like sunspots that appear on the sun, are thought to be common on red giant stars like Betelgeuse. Blurs form due to disturbances in the flow of a star’s magnetic field to the photosphere, or visible surface of the star. Sunspots tend to be clusters of large magnetic activity and can lead to flashes of light or the emission of particles known as solar mass ejections – the source of the solar wind in our solar system. we.

While this temperature study focuses on the Betelgeuse opacity, the team says future research in this area could better inform the study of all red giants – the source main heavy element in the universe, due to the propensity of stars to explode and spew matter.


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