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Betelgeuse: Dying star sparks hope for ‘moon’-sized supernova over Earth – Global News

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Betelgeuse, the normally bright red star in the constellation Orion, might be dying — and its supernova will one day rival the moon in the sky above Earth. One day.

Betelgeuse is currently in its red supergiant phase, which is the geriatric stage of a star’s life when it gets bright and bloated before it dies. The next phase is full-blown supernova, when the star will collapse in on itself in a massive explosion.


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The explosion is expected to happen “sometime in the next 100,000 years,” according to NASA. When it does happen, it’s expected to light up the sky over Earth in a spectacular display that will last for weeks.

Many skywatchers are hoping that “sometime” will be “sometime soon” after observing an obvious decline in Betelgeuse’s light over the last several months. Betelgeuse’s brightness faded by more than half in the latter part of 2019, making it dimmer than it’s ever been in recorded history. It’s still visible in the “armpit” of Orion, but it’s not nearly as bright as it used to be.

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NASA says Betelgeuse is “likely” just running through its variable cycles, which make it look brighter or dimmer from time to time. It’s a coughing, cranky old star, and there are bound to be hiccups as it nears the end.






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A recent burst of gravitational waves has stoked speculation that the end might be near for Betelgeuse, though astronomer Andy Howell says the two situations are probably not related.

Howell admitted to stepping outside to see if Betelgeuse had blown up Tuesday, although he compared that to “buying a lottery ticket” in terms of the slim chance that it might occur.

“Betelgeuse blowing up would be far more exciting than winning the lottery,” Howell tweeted. “Lottery winners happen every day. It has been 400 years since humans have seen a supernova in our galaxy, and I’m one of the best prepared people on the planet for it.”

Supernova expert J. Craig Wheeler says it’s highly unlikely that Betelgeuse is about to explode.

“My money all along has been that Betelgeuse is going through a somewhat extreme, but otherwise normal quasi-periodic change in brightness,” he told The New York Times from the University of Texas at Austin.

Nevertheless, some skywatchers say they’re ready to start the Betelgeuse death watch. Just in case.

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Betelgeuse is approximately 640 light-years from Earth. That means it’s close enough that we could watch it die without a telescope, while being far enough away that it won’t hurt us when it goes, NASA says. And it will absolutely go sometime in the next 100,000 years, in what astronomers say will be a truly spectacular display.

When Betelgeuse blows up, the supernova will be about as bright as a quarter-moon in the Earth’s sky, according to a 2015 article on the subject by Jillian Scudder, a U.K.-based astrophysicist. The supernova would show up clearly in the night sky, and would even be visible during the day if you know where to look.






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Scudder said a dying Betelgeuse would be about 16 times brighter than the most well-documented supernova, which caused a stir among many ancient civilizations in 1006.

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“It was said that the supernova in 1006 was bright enough to cast a shadow at night,” Scudder wrote. “Betelgeuse, being significantly brighter, would likely also cast shadows.”

One simulation suggests it would look like a bright streetlight hanging in the sky for several weeks before it fades away, leaving one less star in the Orion constellation.


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Popular astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson echoed Scudder’s words in a lengthy Twitter thread about Betegeuse’s death earlier this month.

“No need to panic, but if it exploded, the flash would be visible in the daytime, and rival the brightness of the moon for weeks,” Tyson wrote.

Tyson also pointed out that Betelgeuse “may have already exploded,” since it would take about 640 years for its light to reach Earth. That would make it a ghost or a “dead star walking,” as Tyson put it.

In fact, there might be many “dead stars” in the night sky right now, although we wouldn’t know it for millennia because of how long it takes for light to travel through space.

As writer Alan Moore once put it: “All we ever see of stars are their old photographs.”

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And Betelgeuse’s next photograph might be a crazy one — though it might take a few millennia for it to reach us.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Chinese institutions to receive 2nd batch of lunar samples for research – ecns

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China has announced a list of research institutions that are to receive the second batch of lunar samples brought back by its Chang’e-5 mission.

The newly distributed samples, weighing about 17.9 grams, will be divided into 51 lots and handed over to scientists from 17 research institutions, according to a notice issued by the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.

Sixteen institutions that are eligible to study the second batch of lunar samples are from the mainland, including Peking University, Tsinghua University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Macau University of Science and Technology is also qualified for using the lunar sample.

According to the notice, the China National Space Administration established a selection commission for the distribution of the samples earlier this month.

The Chang’e-5 probe returned to Earth on Dec. 17, 2020, having retrieved a total of 1,731 grams of lunar samples, mainly rocks and soil from the moon’s surface.

China delivered the first batch of the lunar samples, weighing about 17 grams, to 13 institutions in July.


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SpaceX's SN20 Starship prototype completes its first static fire test – Yahoo Movies Canada

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SpaceX has taken a major step towards sending the Starship to orbit. On Thursday night, the private space corporation has conducted the SN20 Starship prototype’s first static fire test as part of its preparation for the spacecraft’s launch. According to Space, the SN20 is currently outfitted with two Raptor engines: A standard “sea-level” Raptor and a vacuum version designed to operate in space. At 8:16PM Eastern time on Thursday, the company fired the latter. SpaceX then revealed on Twitter that it was the first ever firing of a Raptor vacuum engine integrated onto a Starship.

Around an hour after that, the SN20 lit up yet again in a second static fire test that may have involved both Raptor engines. The SN20 will eventually have six Raptors — three standard and three vacuum — and will be the first prototype to attempt an orbital launch. A Starship launch system is comprised of the Starship spacecraft itself and a massive first-stage booster called the Super Heavy. Both are designed to be reusable and to carry large payloads for trips to low and higher Earth orbits. It can also eventually be used for longer trips to the Moon and to Mars. 

SpaceX doesn’t have a date for the SN20 test flight yet, but the plan is to launch the vehicle with the Super Heavy known as Booster 4 from the company’s Boca Chica site. The booster will splash down in the Gulf of Mexico, while the SN20 will continue its journey towards orbit. 

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Guilt, grief and anxiety as young people fear for climate’s future

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Overwhelmed, sad, guilty are some of the emotions young people say they feel when they think of  Climate Change and their concerns world leaders will fail to tackle it.

Broadly referred to as climate anxiety, research has stacked up to measure its prevalence ahead of the U.N. talks in Glasgow, which begin at the end of the month to thrash out how to put the 2015 Paris Agreement on curbing climate change into effect.

One of the biggest studies to date, funded by Avaaz, an online campaign network, and led by Britain’s University of Bath, surveyed 10,000 young people aged 16-25 years in 10 countries. It published its results in September.

It found around three quarters of those surveyed considered the future frightening, while a lack of action by governments and industry left 45% experiencing climate anxiety and distress that affected their daily lives and functioning.

Elouise Mayall, an ecology student at Britain’s University of East Anglia and member of the UK Youth Climate Coalition, told Reuters she had felt guilty and overwhelmed.

“What I’d be left with is maybe the sense of shame, like, ‘how dare you still want lovely things when the world is ending and you don’t even know if you’re going to have a safe world to grow old in’.”

She spoke of conflicting emotions.

“You might have sadness, there might be fear, there might be a kind of overwhelm,” she said. “And maybe even sometimes a quite like wild optimism.”

Caroline Hickman, a psychotherapist and lecturer at the University of Bath and one of the co-authors of the research published in September, is working to help young people manage climate-related emotions.

“They’re growing up with the grief and the fear and the anxiety about the future,” she told Reuters.

“SENSE OF MEANING”

London-based psychiatrist Alastair Santhouse sees climate change, as well as COVID-19, as potentially adding to the burden, especially for those pre-disposed to  anxiety .

For now, climate anxiety alone does not normally require psychiatric help. Painful as it is, it can be positive, provided it does not get out of control.

“Some anxiety about climate change is motivating. It’s just a question of how much anxiety is motivating and how much is unacceptable,” said Santhouse, author of a book that tackles how health services struggle to cope with complex mental issues.

“The worry is that as climate change sets in, there will be a more clear cut mental health impact,” he added.

Among some of the world’s communities that are already the most vulnerable, extreme weather events can also cause problems such as post traumatic stress disorder.

Leading climate campaigner Greta Thunberg, 18, has experienced severe climate anxiety.

“It’s a quite natural response, because, as you see, as the world is today, that no one seems to care about what’s happening, I think it’s only human to feel that way,” she said.

For now, however, she is hopeful because she is doing everything she possibly can.

“When you take action, you also get a sense of meaning that something is happening. If you want to get rid of that anxiety, you can take action against it,” she said.

 

(Reporting by Barbara Lewis; Editing by Alison Williams)

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