A red supergiant star known as Betelgeuse has intrigued scientists worldwide as it inexplicably began to dim noticeably in the sky. We mentioned recently that scientists believe they now know what caused the dimming. The theory is that material was ejected from the star’s surface and cooled in space, turning into dust that has blocked a significant portion of the light from reaching Earth.
What’s more interesting is that scientists now believe that Betelgeuse may be dimming again and might be ready to go supernova. There is no doubt that, at some point, the red supergiant star will end its life in a supernova blast. Some astronomers now believe that the sudden dimming could be a pre-supernova event.
In the cosmic scale, Betelgeuse is relatively close to Earth at 725 light-years away. The dimming we are now seeing from Earth happened around the year 1300. Scientists can’t be completely sure that the star is ready to go supernova because no one knows what a star does before it goes supernova.
Astronomers have been able to sample stars around a year away from going supernova, but not within the days or weeks before it happens. Astronomers do admit that the chance of Betelgeuse going supernova anytime soon is small. Typically Betelgeuse goes through a brightness cycle that lasts about 420 days.
However, the previous minimum brightness happened in February of this year. That means the next period of dimming happened unexpectedly early. That early dimming was a surprise to astronomers and was announced in July. Beetlejuice will again be visible in the night sky late this month and more observations will be made to see if other changes have occurred.