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Astronomers caught a giant “neighbor” of the Sun

Астрономы засняли гигантскую «соседку» СолнцаUnlike the Sun, the stars of “middle age”, Betelgeuse is in the last stage of stellar evolution

Microwave telescope ALMA has got the most precise to date photos of the star Betelgeuse – a red supergiant, located only 600 light years from Earth and is ready to complete its existence in the next few thousand years.

Betelgeuse is one of the biggest and brightest stars in the sky in the constellation of Orion, which can easily be seen without a telescope. Scientists estimate that this star heavier than the Sun, approximately 15-25 times. If you put Betelgeuse in the center of the Solar system, its outer layers would be, according to some estimates, approximately at the orbit of Mars or even Jupiter.

Unlike the Sun, the stars of “middle age”, Betelgeuse is in the last stage of stellar evolution — the red supergiant stage. At this stage, stars that have exhausted their supply of hydrogen “fuel”, sharply diverging and begin to drop a substance of the outer shells into space, forming a beautiful nebula.

Betelgeuse, as today’s scientists believe, could implode in the next 10 thousand years. Its flash is clearly visible to observers on Earth even in the daytime. For this reason, astronomers from all over the world are now actively watching the dying sun, trying to understand what are the outward signs in his appearance and behaviour can indicate the beginning of the end for this star.

To watch the star quite difficult, say Ian MacDonald (Iain McDonald) from the University of Manchester (UK) and his colleagues. Luminary throws to the open space of a huge number of hot matter that surrounded her giant “cocoon” of the nearly opaque dust and gas.

For this reason, scientists use microwave and infrared telescopes to explore the look of this star and the processes that happen inside her. For example, new images taken by MacDonald and his colleagues using the microwave the ALMA Observatory in the Chilean highland of the chajnantor plateau, helped astronomers to see giant bubbles of hot plasma in the upper layers of the subsoil. These structures distort the shape of a star and make it like a spoiled orange or polydypsia basketball.

Scientists believe that this form of Betelgeuse is that inside the star there are areas with abnormally strong magnetic field generated by the circulation of plasma in its interior. They make it matter to warm up more at some points than in others. This uneven heating, in turn, leads to the formation of a kind of “bumps” on the surface of the disc, which are visible to us even at a distance of 600 light years from her.

The study of these processes with ALMA and other telescopes, scientists hope, will help us understand how close Betelgeuse is to the final death and transformation into a supernova after eight million years — extremely short by the standards of stars time.

As emphasized by astronomers, Betelgeuse explosion, despite the fact that it will be well marked for us, will not pose a threat to life on Earth. Dying star located about 5-10 times further from the Earth than a supernova should be able to fully sterilize the Solar system.

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