Will the Giant Star Betelgeuse Go HyperNova?
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August 29, 2011

Will the Giant Star Betelgeuse Go HyperNova?

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Betelgeuse, one of the brightest stars in the sky, could burst into its supernova phase and become as bright as a full moon - and last for as long as a year. The massive star is visible in the winter sky over most of the world as a bright, reddish star, could explode as a supernova anytime within the next 100,000 years.

The red giant Betelgeuse, once so large it would reach out to Jupiter's orbit if placed in our own solar system, has shrunk by 15 percent over the past decade in a half, although it's just as bright as it's ever been.

"To see this change is very striking," said retired Berkeley physics professor Charles Townes, who won the 1964 Nobel Prize for inventing the laser. "We will be watching it carefully over the next few years to see if it will keep contracting or will go back up in size."

Betelgeuse, whose name derives from Arabic, is easily visible in the constellation Orion. It gave Michael Keaton's character his name in the movie "Beetlejuice" and was the home system of Galactic President Zaphod Beeblebrox in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."

Red giant stars are thought to have short, complicated and violent lifespans. Lasting at most a few million years, they quickly burn out their hydrogen fuel and then switch to helium, carbon and other elements in a series of partial collapses, refuelings and restarts.

Betelgeuse, which is thought to be reaching the end of its lifespan, may be experiencing one of those collapses as it switches from one element to another as nuclear-fusion fuel.

"We do not know why the star is shrinking," said Townes' Berkeley colleague Edward Wishnow. "Considering all that we know about galaxies and the distant universe, there are still lots of things we don't know about stars, including what happens as red giants near the ends of their lives."

If Betelgeuse goes nova, it could offer Earth's astronomers an up close look at how supernovae evolve and the physics that governs how they work. The problem is that is is not clear when that will happen. While stories have been circulating that the star could explode in 2012, the odds of that are actually quite small. Betelgeuse may explode tomorrow night, or it may not go nova until the year 100,000 A.D. It's impossible to know.

Betelgeuse is beyond the death beam distance -somwhere within 30 light years range- where it could do ultimate damage to Earth.The explosion won't do the Earth any harm, as a star has to be relatively close -- on the order of 25 light years -- to do that. Betelgeuse is about 600 light years distant.

Betelgeuse, one of the most luminous stars known and ten times the size of the Sun, is thought to be only 10 million years old. The more massive a star is the shorter its lifespan, which is why astronomers think it has an outside chance of exploding relatively soon.

Late in 2009 year astronomers witnessed the largest explosion ever recorded: a super giant star two hundred times bigger than the sun utterly obliterated by runaway thermonuclear reactions triggered by gamma ray-driven antimatter production.  The resulting blast was visible for months because it unleashed a  cloud of radioactive material over fifty times the size of our own star, giving off a nuclear fission glow visible from galaxies away.

The super-supernova SN2007bi is an example of a "pair-instability" breakdown, and that's like calling an atomic bomb a "plutonium-pressing" device.  At sizes of around four megayottagrams (that's thirty-two zeros) giant stars are supported against gravitational collapse by gamma ray pressure.  The hotter the core, the higher the energy of these gamma rays - but if they get too energetic, these gamma rays can begin pair production: creating an electron-positron matter-antimatter pair out of pure energy as they pass an atom.  Yes, this does mean that the entire stellar core acts as a gigantic particle accelerator.

The antimatter annihilates with its opposite, as antimatter is wont to do, but the problem is that the speed of antimatter explosion - which is pretty damn fast - is still a critical delay in the gamma-pressure holding up the star. The outer layers sag in, compressing the core more, raising the temperature, making more energetic gamma rays even more likely to make antimatter and suddenly the whole star is a runaway nuclear reactor beyond the scale of the imagination.  The entire thermonuclear core detonates at once, an atomic warhead that's not just bigger than the Sun - it's bigger than the Sun plus the mass of another ten close by stars.

The entire star explodes.  No neutron star, no black hole, nothing left behind but an expanding cloud of newly radioactive material and empty space where once was the most massive item you can actually have without ripping space.  The explosion alone triggers alchemy on a suprasolar scale, converting stars' worth of matter into new radioactive elements.

And we saw this. This really happened.  Someday, somewhere, another massive explosion will occur and no one will be left to tweet it.

Certain rare stars -real killers -type 11 stars, are core-collapse hypernova that generate deadly gamma ray bursts (GRBs). These long burst objects release 1000 times the non-neutrino energy release of an ordinary "core-collapse" supernova. Concrete proof of the core-collapse GRB model came in 2003.

It was made possible in part to a fortuitously "nearby" burst whose location was distributed to astronomers by the Gamma-ray Burst Coordinates Network (GCN). On March 29, 2003, a burst went off close enough that the follow-up observations were decisive in solving the gamma-ray burst mystery. The optical spectrum of the afterglow was nearly identical to that of supernova SN1998bw. In addition, observations from x-ray satellites showed the same characteristic signature of "shocked" and "heated" oxygen that's also present in supernovae. Thus, astronomers were able to determine the "afterglow" light of a relatively close gamma-ray burst (located "just" 2 billion light years away) resembled a supernova.

It isn't known if every hypernova is associated with a GRB. However, astronomers estimate only about one out of 100,000 supernovae produce a hypernova. This works out to about one gamma-ray burst per day, which is in fact what is observed.

What is almost certain is that the core of the star involved in a given hypernova is massive enough to collapse into a black hole (rather than a neutron star). So every GRB detected is also the "birth cry" of a new black hole.

Scientists agree that new observations of T Pyxidis in the constellation Pyxis (the compass) using the International Ultraviolet Explorer satellite, indicate the white dwarf is part of a close binary system with a sun, and the pair are 3,260 light-years from Earth and much closer than the previous estimate of 6,000 light-years.

The white dwarf in the T Pyxidis system is a recurrent nova, which means it undergoes nova (thermonuclear) eruptions around every 20 years. The most recent known events were in 1967, 1944, 1920, 1902, and 1890. These explosions are nova rather than supernova events, and do not destroy the star, and have no effect on Earth. The astronomers do not know why the there has been a longer than usual interval since the last nova eruption.

Astronomers believe the nova explosions are the result of an increase of mass as the dwarf siphons off hydrogen-rich gases from its stellar companion. When the mass reaches a certain limit a nova is triggered. It is unknown whether there is a net gain or loss of mass during the siphoning/explosion cycle, but if the mass does build up the so-called Chandrasekhar Limit could be reached, and the dwarf would then become a Type 1a supernova. In this event the dwarf would collapse and detonate a massive explosion resulting in its total destruction. This type of supernova releases 10 million times the energy of a nova.

Observations of the white dwarf during the nova eruptions suggest its mass is increasing, and pictures from the Hubble telescope of shells of material expelled during the previous explosions support the view. Models estimate the white dwarf's mass could reach the Chandrasekhar Limit in around 10 million years or less.

According to the scientists the supernova would result in gamma radiation with an energy equivalent to 1,000 solar flares simultaneously - enough to threaten Earth by production of nitrous oxides that would damage and perhaps destroy the ozone layer. The supernova would be as bright as all the other stars in the Milky Way put together. One of the astronomers, Dr Edward Sion, from Villanova University in Pennsylvania, said the supernova could occur "soon" on the timescales familiar to astronomers and geologists, but this is a long time in the future in human terms.

Astronomers think supernova explosions closer than 100 light years from Earth would be catastrophic, but the effects of events further away are unclear and would depend on how powerful the supernova is. The research team postulate it could be close enough and powerful enough to damage Earth, possibly severely, although other researchers, such as Professor Fillipenko of the Berkeley Astronomy Department, disagree with the calculations and believe the supernova, if it occurred, would be unlikely to damage the planet.

The Daily Galaxy via nature.com

Comments

I would like to display a letter from S.W.Hawking which should open the eyes of the readers of this site that what is written on this site are not facts. The models & theories on the basis of which everything is written about the cosmology are fudamentally incorrect because the space-time concept is incorrect. This scenerio has been created because MM Expt. was misinterpreted which is proved in the article 'Michelson-Morley Experiment- A Misconceived & Misinterpreted Experiment' being published shortly on www.indjst.org.
Dear Prof Shafiq

Your present paper has definitely clarified what your theory actually explains. It is amazing that how all physicists including myself were confused for a century. Me and my colleges here read your paper with interest and had a nice discussion on it. We find it so interesting that we are all shocked at what you have proved. It has already changed the course of modern physics. You are definitely
the best scientist of this century. You will face a lot of opposition now as you have challenged all existing scientific theories, which will make a lot of physicists lose jobs. Now all physics has to be rewritten, and almost all work done on relativity has to be discarded.


With Regards

S. W. Hawking
Cambridge
United Kingdom
The article he mentioned is 'Foundation of Theory of Everything' which is available on www.indjst.org & also on www.islamic-thought.com

I somehow doubt that Stephen Hawking would use such poor English as "me and my colleages" as the above (im)poster would have us accept, and never mind the silly content.

seriously, the ridiculous crackpots and spam on this site know no bounds

The star is already very visible in the night sky. I'm sure this event will scare a lot of people, and will be spectacular.

COSMIC PREDICTION
-- James Ph. Kotsybar

Betelgeuse is gonna blow!
It’s just a matter of time
It’s only ten million years old
But already well past its prime.
Betelgeuse is gonna blow:
Its hydrogen fuel is spent,
And though it’s switched its diet,
And decreased by fifteen percent,
Betelgeuse is gonna blow,
And it’s gonna happen soon --
Within a hundred thousand years
It will be as bright as the moon.
When exactly, we don’t know,
But Betelgeuse is gonna blow!

He was being sarcastic.
Believe in our fairy tale or be killed! sigh...

I just got a letter from Stephen Hawking too! Apparently, he has been working with a Nigerian diplomat who has managed to secret away $20 million! If I can help him move the money out of the country, he's going to give me ten percent!! WHOOHOO! I'm rich!!!!

Thank-you Stephen Hawking!

I just got a letter from Stephen Hawking too! Apparently, he has been working with a Nigerian diplomat who has managed to secret away $20 million! If I can help him move the money out of the country, he's going to give me ten percent!! WHOOHOO! I'm rich!!!!

Thank-you Stephen Hawking!

I just got a letter from Stephen Hawking too! Apparently, he has been working with a Nigerian diplomat who has managed to secret away $20 million! If I can help him move the money out of the country, he's going to give me ten percent!! WHOOHOO! I'm rich!!!!

Thank-you Stephen Hawking!

I just got a letter from Stephen Hawking too! Apparently, he has been working with a Nigerian diplomat who has managed to secret away $20 million! If I can help him move the money out of the country, he's going to give me ten percent!! WHOOHOO! I'm rich!!!!

Thank-you Stephen Hawking!

Is the Betelgeuse ‘two suns’ supernova story a cover-up for Planet X collision?... South Atlantic Anomaly and South Georgia Magnetic Observatory: A magnetic reversal in progress?... Discovery (Aug 25, 2010): IS THE SUN EMITTING A MYSTERY PARTICLE?... LiveScience (29 July 2010): Antarctica Experiment Discovers Puzzling Space Ray Pattern... Nat Geo (Nov 19, 2008): "MYSTERIOUS ASTROPHYSICAL OBJECT that's bombarding Earth with cosmic rays... Is the world's largest super-volcano set to erupt for the first time in 600,000 years, wiping out two-thirds of the U.S.?:
http://cristiannegureanu.blogspot.com/2011/01/is-betelgeuse-two-suns-supernova-story.html

It will be spectacular whenever it happens. I hope I live to see a Hypernova!

I think Cannis Majoris blowing would be a galaxy killer, biggest known star in the Milky Way.

"Professor" Mohammad Shafiq Khan,
Stop spamming the site with your ridiculous and ignorant claims. The fact that you believe that anyone would fall for something so unlikely especially without proof or at least evidence tells me you have very low opinion of science in general. We come to this site for scientific knowledge and discussion not hearsay and gossip. We are scientist or at least wannabe scientists and your posts are not tricking anyone into buying your book or your bs...

Meanwhile Eta Carinae bides her time, some day soon? before puny Betelgeuse what a show!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eta_Carinae

Wow! I remember reading about the Betelgeuse Star before I was a teenager (twenty five years ago). I am slightly dyslexic and have thought all this time that one of the biggest stars was pronounced "Bell-Gel-Us". Now all this time later, me and the wife have become curious about a very bright star in the Scottish skies... This has led me to discover more on this gaseous giant and I am physically busting to buy a telescope to see this monster in the flesh.
Thanks for all your helpful info. x

Betelgeuse is a supergiant but isn't big enough to be a hypernova. It's not even one of the most massive stars that will eventually go supernova, and won't explode in the near future because it's still cooling and expanding.

HD 269810 is a real hypergiant, many times more massive than Betelgeuse. KY Cygni, NML Cygni and Mu Cephei are very massive red supergiants and closer to becoming supernovae than Betelgeuse.


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