It can be very challenging for astronomers to determine the specific distance of an object in space accurately, and an example of that is the red supergiant Betelgeuse.
Betelgeuse has been in the news recently as astronomers have said that this red supergiant will erupt into a supernova. Now, according to an international team of scientists, led by researchers from The Australian National University and The University of Tokyo, the distance of Betelgeuse from Earth may have been more accurately determined.
Since size and distance play a pivotal role in determining the specifications of an object (the further an object is away, the smaller it appears), previous estimations for Betelgeuse's size and distance have now been thrown into question. Dr. Laszlo Molnar, a co-author of the study, said in a statement, "The actual physical size of Betelgeuse has been a bit of a mystery-earlier studies suggested it could be bigger than the orbit of Jupiter. Our results say Betelgeuse only extends out to two-thirds of that, with a radius 750 times the radius of the sun."
Dr. Molnar continues, "Once we had the physical size of the star, we were able to determine the distance from Earth. Our results show it's a mere 530 light-years from us-25 percent closer than previously thought."
Astronomers have speculated that Betelgeuse is getting close to its end of life, as it has been seen dimming at a rapid rate. Dr. Merideth Joyce, a lead author of the study, said in a statement, "It's normally one of the brightest stars in the sky, but we've observed two drops in the brightness of Betelgeuse since late 2019. This prompted speculation it could be about to explode. But our study offers a different explanation. We know the first dimming event involved a dust cloud. We found the second smaller event was likely due to the pulsations of the star."
Estimations from scientists place the explosion in the range of about 100,000 from now, so not something we have to immediately worry about. Astronomers also believe that even though Betelgeuse is 25% closer than we previously thought, the explosion poses no threat to the Earth.
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