Sunday, September 13, 2009

Betelguese


Yesterday, one of my friends told me about the end of Betelguese, α Orionis. It is a star, if you do not know, and it is generally the second brightest star in the constellation of orion, whose picture I provide.

If you do not know, then Betelguese is a hugely massive star. It lies about 640 light years away from Earth, and is about 20 times the mass of the sun. It is one of the largest stars known to man, being a Red Supergiant.
If placed at the center of our own solar system, then it would gobble up the space upto Mars!

This star is only 6-10 million years old, but its massiveness is burning its hydrogen fuel up. Sooner or later, it is doomed to become a supernova.
A recent study (well, recent if counted in astonomical senses) conducted in the UC Berkeley's Infrared Spatial Interferometer (ISI) atop Mt. Wilson Observatory in Southern California that Betelguese's diameter has shrunk dramatically by 15% since 1993, in the past 15 years! And surprisingly, I was born since then! May be I am a bad omen for Betelguese.
This rapid shrinking is due to the fact that Betelguese is receding towards its ultimate end, if Dr. Charles Townes is to be believed. And we must beilieve him, for the evidences are clear --- Betelguese is going to become a supernova.

This is the scientific prohpecy of a super-star's super death, but the Internet is being flooded with messages that the star's end would mean the end of the Earth! I vaguely remember someone telling me that a black hole will suck the earth inside out once the LHC started. Gosh! I am inside a black hole..?!

This is pure rubbish. I don't know why people misinterpret everything as the earth's end. Why, aren't we destroying the Earth while we guzzle gallons of gas in our SUVs? That, ladies and gentlemen, is the reason for end of the earth, not Betelguese.

Evidences suggest that the supernova is due on 2012. Oh my god, another date! Isn't that the year the mayan calendar ends, the apocalypse of Earth? Well, I am sorry to disappoint you, it is not; unless Osama Bin Laden gets hold of Pakistan's Nuclear Weapons, it is not.

We are our own perils, and no astronomical phenomenon poses a greater threat to humanity than the greenhouse effect or the humanity itself. As for Betelguese, it will die a magnificent death. The supernova it will create will shine as bright as the full moon, or even brighter, temporarily making it the brightest star in the night sky. Imagine the moonless night being flooded with red light- ah! a poet's delight of a wonderful, but sad, phenomenon.

I would like to quote Shakespeare, "When beggars die, there are no comets are seen. The heaven themselves blaze forth the death of princes".
Julius Caesar, Act 2,Scene 2, Lines 32,33.

Now think about the death of the prince of the stars...
Such greatness does Betelguese posesses, which makes it my most faourite star. I will be bereaved to find such a friend gone, but it cannot be helped. He must go someday.And his death will be studied and analysed by countless Scientists, for it will be a spectacle that all astronomers await.

But there are fears that the X-rays and Gamma Rays might cause a mass extinction on Earth. I may rest assure you that the Gamma-ray Bursts it will cause will be directed outwards of the Earth. Also, it is very far away! It can do absolutely nothing to us, but we can only wait and see.

It would be very sad indeed for Betelguese to go, but who must die, dies. That is the law of nature.

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