back to article Red supergiant Betelgeuse heads for SMACKDOWN with 'dust bar'

Earth's nearest supergiant red star Betelgeuse is on its way to a spectacular collision when it smacks into a "nearby" dust bar. The whole process will take thousands of years, however. Betelgeuse's enigmatic environment The European Space Agency's Herschel telescope has snapped a new image of Betelgeuse, which is in …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And we will be swallowed up 32 mins and 6 seconds later.

  2. Christoph

    What has this got to do with a Supernova?

    Why should passing through a gas cloud trigger a Supernova?

    It's probably so thin it will have no particular effect anyway, but it would take a LOT more to affect the activity in the star's core.

    1. itzman

      Re: What has this got to do with a Supernova?

      IIRC and its very hazy, the supernova is suddenly the stable way when mass increases to a certain point . Betelgeuse is close now..

      1. BenR

        Re: What has this got to do with a Supernova?

        No / kind of - supernovae generally occur either:

        a) when the star becomes sufficiently massive / hot to reignite and undergo either helium or carbon fusion through material accumulation; or

        b) the outward pressure of the fusion in the core is no longer sufficient to balance the pressure due to the size of the star, causing gravitational collapse. The gravitational collapse increases the density of the core, leading to a) occurring.

        Betelgeuse will nova through route b) - it is almost certainly undergoing helium-fusion at the moment, and when the helium concentration in its core becomes too dilute to effectively fuse (ie, the reaction is poisoned by too much carbon and other 'heavy' elements), it'll shed it's outer layers and undergo core collapse before becoming a type II supernova.


        Explosion - well... if I need to explain why...

    2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Straw that will break the cammel's back

      Betelgeuse was expected to go supernova within a million years before we saw the dust cloud.

    3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: What has this got to do with a Supernova?

      Nothing - they are completely unconnected 'facts' about the star.

      The density of the gas bar is so small the star won't notice

      1. Nigel 11

        Re: What has this got to do with a Supernova?

        Probably not connected.

        OTOH a supernova happens when the star can no longer generate enough radiation pressure to balance the inwards pull due to gravity. Any additional mass might do that if the star is close enough to its tipping point.

        For a REALLY spectacular tipping-point event, find out about hypernovae (pair-production catastrophes).

    4. bkrhoda

      Re: What has this got to do with a Supernova?

      You've never traveled through MY gas cloud . . .

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What has this got to do with a Supernova?

      Or rather with, news. You should have waited some 5000 years, news then perhaps.

    6. Ammaross Danan

      Re: What has this got to do with a Supernova?

      This article should have been tagged with a [b]Watch This Space![/b]

      1. Stuart21551

        Re: What has this got to do with a Supernova?

        or - Hold your breath! -

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: What has this got to do with a Supernova?

          Betelgeuse nova - film at 11:00, 24 January 7653!

          (Betelgeuse is about 640 ly away, according to Jimbo's Font of Knowledge.)

    7. Ade Vickers

      Re: What has this got to do with a Supernova?

      Tsk, didn't you ever watch Blake's 7? All these sorts of questions were answered. In short, travelling through dust clouds is widely regarded to be a Bad Thing, and often causes explosions.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And Ford Prefect considers relocating...


    1. Graham Marsden


      ... at least it won't affect Tharg the Mighty!

      1. Michael 28

        Re: But....

        Quaequam Blag!!!! Are you sure???

  4. Stumpy Silver badge

    "Betelgeuse's outer arc will crash into it in just five thousand years and the red star itself will follow, around 12,500 years later"

    ... so not worth staying up late to watch then ...

  5. Steve Knox

    Are they sure...

    that's not just a crease in the film?

    1. EddieD

      Re: Are they sure...

      I think that that comment dates you - few people these days know the pain of finding a cinch mark in that roll of film you wound into the developing spiral :)

      1. yakitoo

        Re: Are they sure...

        Or the finger print just overlapping the sprockets into the frame.

        1. earl grey

          Re: Are they sure...

          of the pleasure of squeezing a couple of extra shots onto the leader if you do it right,....

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pulls up chair, opens popcorn

    One of those American supersized popcorns of course

  7. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. andreas koch

      @ Eadon - Re: Windows 8 supernova

      Wow. Can I have a couple of barrow loads of that heap? My garden could do with a bit of fertilising.

      1. Euripides Pants

        Re: @ Eadon - Windows 8 supernova

        I'd pass on that if I were you - might be infected.

    2. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Windows 8 supernova

      For managing to twist the theme of an article about goings on in the cosmos into an unfounded anti-MS rant, well done.

      Have a fanboi bell-end of the week award.

  8. Bogdan Stancescu

    Can't wait for this to happen!


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Can't wait for this to happen!

      So, since you literally cannot wait, what then? You die? You spontaneously teleport through time?

    2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      1. DJO Silver badge

        Re: Can't wait for this to happen!

        "the odds are far greater than for winning the UK lottery"

        Rubbish, with the many worlds interpretation of quantum theory you can guarantee any lottery ticket you buy IS the winning ticket. There is of course a slight problem of ensuring you're in the right universe.

        As a version of you in a universe (hopefully this one*) must win, should you decide not to buy a ticket you will deprive a version of yourself a fortune. - What a bastard!

        [New advertising campaign for the various lotteries]

        *As if!

        1. LaeMing

          re: deprive a version of yourself a fortune

          *except in one of the multiverses where you decided to buy a ticket afterall, since the decision itself is subject to quantum splitting.

          YMWV :-P

        2. TheOtherHobbes

          Re: Can't wait for this to happen!

          That makes the lottery an excellent way of counting universes.

          I mean - who knew?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Betelguese has been observed for thousands of years.

    Why is it only now that the nearby dust cloud it's moving towards has been spotted?

    It's not as if it's only recently moved close to the cloud -- given that it will take thousands of years to reach it.

    1. Vulch

      Because of science!

      The cloud only shows up in the far infrared part of the spectrum, interstellar dust is cold, and the atmosphere does a reasonable job of blocking it. If the observers had been able to put a large telescope with a suitable spectral response outside the Earths atmosphere those thousands of years ago then it would have been spotted, otherwise it had to wait for one to be flown which pretty much means Herschel.

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Or to put it another way:

      Well, the thing about space dust - it's main distinguishing feature - is it's black. And the thing about space, the color of space, your basic space color - is it's black. So how are you supposed to see them?

      (apologies to Grant Naylor)

  10. Herby

    So, this is the cause....

    ...of global climate change.

    Yeah, that's the ticket, supernova causes climate change. See it in 1500 years.

    I'll pass!

  11. Chris Cartledge

    Perhaps in front or behind

    How do they know it will actually hit this this band of dust? Do they know the distances so precisely they know it can't go behind or in front of it?

    1. CCCP

      Re: Perhaps in front or behind

      In two words - red shift.

      We judge distances to objects that throw off light we can detect by how far their light has shifted towards longer wave lengths, i.e. red in the visible spectrum.

      That's why aliens always look red. Or is that green... Sorry, bad colour vision.

      1. Tom Sparrow

        Re: Red Shift

        Redshift only applies as a means of judging distance on large cosmological scales, that is extra-galactic at least, where the overall expansion of the universe applies. Not that you can't measure the shift, but it doesn't tell you how far away the object is (because the galaxy isn't expanding, at least not in the way the universe is)

        Within the galaxy, you need to rely on other factors - parallax measurement as the earth goes round the sun is good, if you can measure accurately enough.

  12. mIRCat


    Doomed doomed doom.

    Unless we found the Betelgeuse Preservation Fund. Now accepting donations.

  13. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    2. Stephen Channell

      Re: Betelgeuse.

      Not if you’re “somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse”, from there orion still looks like some far-off cluster of galaxies.

      If b’ chance you wakeup early with another Sun burning in the sky.. that’ll be Betelgeuse going supernova early.. probably best not to “top up the tan” though.

      1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Betelgeuse.

          Your tan will be topped off nicely by the flood of neutrinos

          maybe the LHC will start to pay back some of the extortionate cost by then

        2. Nigel 11

          Re: Betelgeuse.

          If one had a life-span measured in billions of years, one's next thought might be "Whew! That really was a bit close for comfort!"

          ISTR a supernova within 100 Ly presents a serious hazard to our biosphere. Some of the mass extinction events in Earth's history might have been so caused.

    3. kyza

      The shoulder of Orion, you say?

      Attack ships were once on fire there...

    4. Martin Budden Bronze badge

      Re: Betelgeuse.

      "Unless you're 'down under' of course, then it's his leg or something."

      No, it's still in his shoulder, it's just that he's upside-down. Also, his 'sword' is standing erect, presumably because he's on top of the seven sisters.

  14. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    expected to approach supernova within the next million years

    I'm getting the chair out now, while there's room to get a good view.

  15. Red Bren

    Any other supernova candidates?

    We're overdue a supernova in our galaxy and I literally* can't wait for betelguese to go.

    * I'm starting to doubt that a diet of booze and pizza will make me immortal.

    1. pepper

      Re: Any other supernova candidates?

      I cant wait either! My body will have decaded by then, and I doubt they will revive me in time..

      So, we must find a way to speed up this cataclysmic event!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Any other supernova candidates?

        decaded = added ten years

        you mean decayed?

        1. pepper

          Re: Any other supernova candidates?

          Can I have both?

  16. Mint Sauce

    Belgium man....


  17. Paul Smith

    I wonder ...

    ... is Betelgeuse close enough that a supernova there would be an extinction event here?

    If it is, then now would be a good time to a) confirm the theory that iron at a suns core triggers supernova, b) identify whether or not there is iron in that dust cloud, and if there is c) work out how to travel interstellar distances in a hurry.

    We might just have a supernova to outrun...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: is Betelgeuse close enough that a supernova there would be an extinction event here

      Nope, it's plenty far enough away. Supernova death range is about 25 light years, Betelgeuse is six-hundred-odd light years away. (Source: <a href="">Bad Astronomy</a>)

      (Hmm, when did inserting links stop working for me?)

      1. PT

        Re: is Betelgeuse close enough that a supernova there would be an extinction event here

        Bad Astronomy

        Fixed it for you.

        (open tag)a href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank"(close tag)Bad Astronomy(open tag)/a(close tag)

  18. Pet Peeve

    Do not taunt the happy fun impending type II supernova.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But what about the jets

    I did some calculations that suggest the possibiity of one of the jets impacting the Earth slightly off axis, and its not looking good.

    500 R/hr for a week, total annihilation of the ozone layer and essentially resetting evolution back to the late Ordovician era.

    Oh, and did I mention that in all likelihood the torsional forces could hurl the Moon out of orbit if it hits in the right place, causing yet more doom and destruction?

    Lucky its not going to happen for at least 1.5 million ye)!)£ <NO CARRIER>

  20. MacroRodent Silver badge

    Getting back to computers...

    That picture looked exactly like the camera eye of HAL9000 in the "2001" movie...

  21. Alister Silver badge

    How do they know that the dust bar is even in the same plane as the star?

    It could be thousands of kilometres in front of or behind the path of Betelgeuse, as we see it, so the "collision" may be complete fabrication.

  22. Bobby Omelette

    The Size of Our World

    For an idea of scale :

  23. Winkypop Silver badge

    30km a second, eh?

    I'll bet at that speed, the bugs that hit its windscreen are instantly turned into beetle juice!

  24. Antony Shepherd

    I'm still kind of hoping that Betelgeuse went supernova around six hundred and thirty odd years ago so I'll get to see the result in the night sky.

    Although it'll be a lot worse than the Great Collapsing Hrung Disaster, that's for sure.

    (does not know what a Hrung is, nor why it should collapse on Betelgeuse seven)

    1. D@v3

      night sky, day sky....

      From what I hear, if it did blow long enough ago that we see in in the next 10-20 years, it will be so bright that we will be able to see it during the day.

      Courtesy of 'I Fucking Love Science' on Facebook.

      "It's located about 640 light years away and it could go supernova at ANY MINUTE. Any minute in the next million years, that is. Hell, maybe it already has. When it does, it will light up our skies and be visible during the day"

  25. teebie

    Hurry *up* star

  26. The last doughnut

    Thanks for the interesting article. But once again you have failed to provide a caption for the picture.

  27. Dave Hilling

    640 light years away for all we know it could go tomorrow and we wont know until 2653ish. Kind of amazing to think about.

    1. Alister Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      ...or think of it another way, Betelgeuse could have blown up 600 years ago, and we still wouldn't know about it for another 40 years.

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