The red giant star Betelgeuse is looking markedly faint and astronomers say it may be a sign that the star is about to explode. There are also chances that it is just going through a phase, researchers said. Astronomy professor Ed Guinan told a news channel that the brightness of Betelgeuse started declining sharply since October. He said the star is 2.5 times fainter than usual and has slipped to the 23rd position in the list of the brightest star. Betelgeuse was once at the ninth position in this list. Guinan is the lead author of the paper ‘The Fainting of the Nearby Supergiant Betelgeuse’ which was published on December 8.
Guinan, along with his colleagues, has been continuously monitoring the star since 1980. According to the researchers, the star has no dimmed so aggressively in the last half-century. This could mean that something extraordinary is about to happen. The giant star is 12 times as massive as the Sun and at a distance of 700 light-years. It was first founded in 1836 by astronomer Sir John Herschel. Guinan said that the causes of supernova are in the middle of the star and the huge size of the star makes it difficult to predict what is going on.
Betelgeuse is the star at the shoulder of Orion and gets its name from the Arabic translation for ‘the Armpit of Orion’ or ‘the Hand of Orion.’ The star, Guinan said, is about nine million years old and such huge stars don’t live more than 10 million years. It should be noted that Betelgeuse is a variable star and therefore it regularly dims and brightens in cycles. These cycles can last up to 420 days. It has been in the dimming period for the past several weeks but the brightness has reduced drastically compared to previous years. Researchers say that mathematically this period will end by mid-January but the giant often follows its own rules. “This is why I personally think that it is going to bounce back,” Guinan said.