Second sun may appear at any moment

A big bang of the Betelgeuse may occur not long from now. Scientists claim that Betelgeuse, a star 640 light years away from Earth, is going to explode soon. Nikolai Chugai, head of the department of Variable Stars and Astronomical Spectroscopy of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Astronomy shares his views with RIA Novosti’s Samir Shakhbaz, on possible threats and impact this star may cause to our planet.

Samir Shakhbaz: Good afternoon, Mr. Chugai. An Australian scientist claims that the star Betelgeuse is going to explode. Betelgeuse is 640 light years away from the Earth, which is very close for objects in space. The explosion will be extremely powerful and we’ll be able to observe the supernova from the Earth. What have you heard about this news? Is it of legitimate interest to the scientific community?

Nikolai Chugai: Right now we cannot say for sure when it will explode. But yes, Betelgeuse is commanding the attention of astrophysicists for a number of reasons. First of all, it is one of the brightest red super giants.

S.S.: How much bigger is it than the Sun?

N.C.: If we are talking about visible stars, the Sun is a minus 26 but that won’t tell you much. It’s more useful to speak about its luminosity. Betelgeuse is about 100,000 times brighter than the Sun. We know that Betelgeuse is a huge star. It has ten to 15 times more mass than the Sun, so it is a red super giant. This also means the star is near the end of its life. For the bulk of its life, it was a blue super giant, like Rigel (Beta Orionis). It existed for ten million years as a blue supergiant, and became a red supergiant only in the last 100 thousand years. Betelgeuse is actually the brightest star in the constellation Orion in the winter sky.

S.S.: Can we see them from Earth with the naked eye?

N.C.: Yes, of course. These are among the brightest stars in the winter sky. Astrophysicists know that when a star becomes a red supergiant it is about to explode. We have already observed supernovas, for instance, in the Taurus Galaxy, which produced the Crab Nebula. In 1604, Kepler witnessed another supernova, the last one that was visible in our galaxy. However, we know that another supernova in the constellation Cassiopeia appeared 100 years after the one Kepler saw, but for some reason it wasn’t visible in Europe. It probably occurred in the fall or winter when the sky was overcast.

As for Betelgeuse, astrophysicists would love to witness it explode and become a supernova, but that could happen at any time in the course of its 100 thousand years as a red super giant. And we don’t know if we are in the beginning, middle, or end of this period.

....... Read more at   RiaNovosti , Feb 01, 2011

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