Astronomers obtain sharpest ever views of supergiant star Betelgeuse

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Munich, July 30 (ANI): Using different state-of-the-art techniques on ESO's (European Southern Observatory's) Very Large Telescope, two independent teams of astronomers have obtained the sharpest ever views of the supergiant star Betelgeuse.

They show that the star has a vast plume of gas almost as large as our Solar System and a gigantic bubble boiling on its surface.

These discoveries provide important clues to help explain how these mammoths shed material at such a tremendous rate.

Betelgeuse, which is the second brightest star in the constellation of Orion (the Hunter), is a red supergiant, one of the biggest stars known, and almost 1000 times larger than our Sun.

It is also one of the most luminous stars known, emitting more light than 100,000 Suns.

With an age of only a few million years, Betelgeuse is already nearing the end of its life and is soon doomed to explode as a supernova. When it does, the supernova should be seen easily from Earth, even in broad daylight.

Red supergiants still hold several unsolved mysteries.

Two teams of astronomers have used ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) and the most advanced technologies to take a closer look at the gigantic star.

The first team used the adaptive optics instrument, NACO, combined with a so-called "lucky imaging" technique, to obtain the sharpest ever image of Betelgeuse, even with Earth's turbulent, image-distorting atmosphere in the way.

"Thanks to these outstanding images, we have detected a large plume of gas extending into space from the surface of Betelgeuse," said Pierre Kervella from the Paris Observatory, who led the team.

The plume extends to at least six times the diameter of the star, corresponding to the distance between the Sun and Neptune.

"This is a clear indication that the whole outer shell of the star is not shedding matter evenly in all directions," said Kervella.

With the AMBER instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope Interferometer, the astronomers were able to detect indirectly details four times finer still than the amazing NACO images had already allowed.

"Our AMBER observations are the sharpest observations of any kind ever made of Betelgeuse. Moreover, we detected how the gas is moving in different areas of Betelgeuse's surface ? the first time this has been done for a star other than the Sun," said Keiichi Ohnaka from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany.

The AMBER observations revealed that the gas in Betelgeuse's atmosphere is moving vigorously up and down, and that these bubbles are as large as the supergiant star itself. (ANI)

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