Over the past few days, however, the star has been beginning to change shape, suggesting that a supernova might be happening soon. In fact, the date estimated by scientists is currently February 21.
At 642 light years away, Betelgeuse is relatively close to Earth in astronomical terms. It is also both massively larger than both Earth and the sun, clocking in at 20 times the mass and hundreds of times the radius of the latter. It is best known as being part of the star constellation Orion the Hunter.
Though star explosions are massive events, the star is fortunately still far enough from Earth that it will not cause any harm to the planet. That said, its effects will be felt in our solar system, as the explosion will create an incredibly bright star-like light in the sky in addition to a shadow that will make the skies darker for months.
“When this star detonates, the explosion will be bright enough to cast shadows on Earth at night and will be visible during the day for a few months, at least. Then, the star will fade from our sky,” National Geographic explained.
That said, though some scientists insist that the explosion will be a supernova, a majority believe that the strange behavior of the supergiant is just part of its lifespan and that it will not explode for another 100,000 years.
“This whole episode might just be a deeper-than-average pulsation, and perhaps the supernova watch can be called off,” scientist Tony Phillips of Space Weather noted, via CNET.
However, astronomer Andy Briggs said that since little is truly known about supernovae, it is possible, even if not likely, that an explosion could still occur.
“It must be said, however, that predicting supernovae is very much an inexact science, so there is still a possibility, however remote, that Betelgeuse’s fiery end could indeed happen tomorrow,” he wrote.
The odd behavior of Betelgeuse comes after another star had been grabbing scientists’ attentions. As was previously reported by The Inquisitr, a neutron star in a system with a white dwarf has literally been dragging spacetime around itself thanks to its incredible density and spinning speed of 150 times per minute. It is the first ever documented case of the phenomenon — called “frame dragging” — and proves correct an essential aspect of Einstein’s general theory of relativity.