February 25, 2024

Why did one of the brightest stars disappear from the sky for a short time?

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Night owls were able to witness a rare celestial event: the star Betelgeuse was briefly obscured by an asteroid. This phenomenon offers unique insights into astronomy.

MUNICH – For some time now, the star Betelgeuse in the Orion constellation has been the focus of astronomical interest. It got darker and darker – all the while AstronomyThe community was wondering what was happening, and some were already speculating that it was a supernova explosion. But the star recovered and shined as if nothing had happened. Betelgeuse is now the center of attention again because the red supergiant will disappear.

Of course, Betelgeuse will not disappear from the sky forever, but only for a few seconds. Behind this is a rare event called occultation in astronomy: stellar occultation. Asteroid 319 Leona passes in front of Betelgeuse and covers the star for a few seconds. Because the asteroid is so small, the red supergiant will only be partially covered, and part of it will still be visible. Similar to an annular solar eclipse, a “ring of fire” will appear around the asteroid. You can see it with a telescope – if you’re in the right area.

Betelgeuse (Alpha Orionis, Betelgeuse)
Red giant
About 642 light-years away
617.1 million kilometers (about 760 times the radius of the Sun)
16.5 to 19 solar masses

Betelgeuse’s occultation can only be seen along a narrow path

Just like a solar eclipse, the path of occultation is very narrow (about 60 km). It extends, among other places, across southern Europe, Florida and eastern Mexico. Display cards, where the occultation of Betelgeuse can be observed. The occultation will occur on the night of December 11 to 12, 2023.

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Although the event lasts only a few seconds, it is of great importance to astronomy. By blocking Betelgeuse, scientists can gather important information about the star. Ground-based telescopes can closely observe regions visible through the star’s occultation. This is currently not possible without the help of a celestial body blocking some of the light.

Betelgeuse is the left “shoulder star” of the Orion constellation. It is difficult to miss due to its reddish color. © Imago/ZumaWire

The occultation is expected to bring new information about the red giant Betelgeuse

Astronomers hope to gain new insights into the mysterious star Betelgeuse. Researchers want to use occultation to learn how hot gas moves around the star, among other things. The asteroid is also being examined in more detail, said astrophysicist Gianluca Masi Virtual telescope project “These types of occultations are very useful for constraining the shape of the asteroid in question,” he explains. Here we also hope to examine the surface of the affected star.

International Occult Timing Association (IOTA-ES) He calls on astronomers to monitor this rare event. Anyone who is not in the path of a stellar occultation can experience this rare event In the live broadcast of Virtual telescope project a path. The live broadcast begins on December 12 at 2 a.m., with the occultation scheduled for 2:17 a.m. However, this time may still change somewhat, as astronomy is still working to determine the orbit of asteroid (319) Leona more precisely.

Betelgeuse is the left “shoulder star” in the constellation Orion

The star Betelgeuse is also worth watching when it’s not covered by an asteroid. In winter, it is easy to find in the night sky because it is the left “shoulder star” in the constellation Orion, which glows with a striking reddish color. (unpaid bill)

The editor wrote this article and then used an AI language model to improve at her own discretion. All information has been carefully checked.