What will a supernova flash look like from Earth?

Betelgeuse’s beloved star may become a supernova. This opinion was previously expressed by many researchers. The fact is that the brightness of Betelgeuse – the red supergiant – began to change in 2019. This means that sooner or later it will become a supernova – a flash that will seem to us a real heavenly show. Not surprisingly, the idea of ​​the appearance of a supernova in the sky of the Earth attracted public attention. And thanks to new computer models, the researchers got a more accurate idea of ​​what exactly people will see when Betelgeuse dies. It will happen somewhere in the next 100,000 years.

Sky show of unprecedented proportions

First of all, the good news is that life on Earth will not be affected by the death of Betelgeuse, since it is located about 724 light years from our planet. But this does not mean that this event will go unnoticed. Researchers have found that when Betelgeuse explodes, it will shine as bright as a crescent moon – nine times fainter than a full moon – for more than three months. Moreover, the supernova will be visible even during the day, and at night it can be seen with the naked eye. All the brightness from the Betelgeuse explosion will be concentrated at one point, like a powerful sky lighthouse.

The image shows Betelgeuse before and after dimming. Observations made using the sphere tool on the ESO Very Large Telescope in January 2019 and December 2019 show how faded the star is and how its visible shape has changed

According to Discover, to model this unique celestial show, astronomers used the MESA + STELLA program. They also added observational data collected during the 1987A supernova explosion in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Researchers also report that by the time the remnants of the supernova explosion completely disappear, the constellation Orion will lose its “left shoulder”.



Nevertheless, if Betelgeuse explodes in the very near future, then we should not expect anything good. First of all, we are talking about animals that use the moon for navigation and are already confused by artificial lighting. Adding a second object, as bright as the Moon, can be destructive for them. However, difficult times will come for us, because for some time there will simply be no “dark time of day”. Recent studies show that Betelgeuse’s brightness can vary for a number of reasons. Some astronomers do not exclude that other reasons may also be the cause of the fading of the Red Supergiant. Towards the end of life, the nuclear fuel in the cores of the stars ends and the red supergiants begin to swell, forming shells of gas and dust. And as this shell becomes larger, the brightness of the star grows.

Here is an approximate image of the constellation Orion (left) as well as one of the clearest images of Betelgeuse ever received (far right)

However, whatever the root cause, Betelgeuse’s strange behavior will ultimately provide researchers with a better understanding of the death processes of these extraordinary stars. Today Betelgeuse gives astronomers a great opportunity to study the last stages of the evolution of the Red Supergiants, and this is worth a lot.

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