GERMANY: The red giant Betelgeuse, which can be seen in the constellation Orion, may have formerly appeared more orange-yellow, according to recent studies on the star.
The study is based on documents from the past that provided descriptions of the hues of the stars in the sky. A team recently studied 236 stars that are so bright that their colours can be seen with the unaided eye and combed through old descriptions of the stars, including those by Ptolemy and Tycho Brahe.
One of the brightest stars in the sky, Betelgeuse is situated in the constellation Orion around 600 light-years away from Earth. Betelgeuse is a red supergiant that is roughly 764 times as massive as the Sun and has a comparatively cool surface temperature.
The four terrestrial planets as well as Jupiter would be beneath the surface of Betelgeuse if it were situated at the centre of our solar system.
The scientists discovered that during the past few millennia, Betelgeuse’s documented colour has altered (we’re allowed to write that more than three times). The Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society published the results of their study.
According to Ralph Neuhäuser, an astronomer at the University of Jena and the paper’s lead author, “there are quite a few astrophysical questions that can barely be solved without historical observations.”
The team organised accounts of Betelgeuse made over the last 2,000 years by renowned astronomers, such as Sima Qian in the 2nd century BCE in China, Hyginus and Germanicus in the first century CE in Europe, and Alf in the 10th century CE in Persia.
The team was able to determine Betelgeuse’s colour at particular times of day thanks to the more detailed reports—for instance, Sima Qian’s claim that Betelgeuse’s hue was somewhere between Antares’ redness and Bellatrix’s blueness, another star in Orion.
The mass of a star, in Neuhäuser’s opinion, and “the mere fact that its colour changed from yellow-orange to red within two millennia informs us, paired with theoretical calculations, that it has 14 times the mass of our Sun,”
Betelgeuse is now undergoing some noteworthy transformations. The enormous star started to lose its brightness a few years ago. The star was 40% fainter than usual at its brightest. Astrophysicists now think that Betelgeuse experienced a cloud-forming event similar to an unpleasant burp, which temporarily blocked our view of the star.
Betelgeuse is getting close to the end of its lifespan, and no one is sure when it will burst into a brilliant supernova. We’re undoubtedly in for more technicolour surprises from this familiar massive star.
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