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Mea culpa: Betelgeuse and its dusty convective pulsations

2 Mar 2020, 14:00 UTC
Mea culpa: Betelgeuse and its dusty convective pulsations
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Betelgeuse has been in the astronews a bit lately, hasn’t it? Normally one of the very brightest stars in the sky, in October it started dimming, and by January had faded to roughly a third of its normal brightness. Astronomers have known for a long time that Betelgeuse periodically fluctuates in brightness, but this was a historic low point for the star.

Because it’s so bright, has a recognizable name, is easy to spot as one of the anchor points in the easily recognizable constellation of Orion, and also may one day explode as a supernova, this behavior got a lot of press.

I’ve written about it several times over the past couple of months: When it was first announced that this dip in brightness was really substantial, again when images revealed that only one half of the star appeared to be dimming, and then just a few days ago when the star started to brighten again.

Orion rises in the east not long after sunset in December. Betelgeuse (just below and to the left of center) has faded dramataically recently, dropping in brightness to look more like the star Aldebaran in Taurus (top center). Credit: Phil Plait

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