Hubble telescope solves thriller of star’s dimming

New findings from NASA’s Hubble House Telescope have helped astronomers to unravel the thriller of why Orion’s vibrant pink supergiant Betelgeuse dramatically light for a interval of weeks final 12 months. 

In inspecting the large pink hypergiant VY Canis Majoris, astrophysicists from NASA and the College of Minnesota, Minneapolis discovered that the identical processes are occurring on a a lot bigger scale.


The commentary was printed within the Feb. 4, 2021 version of The Astronomical Journal, the place the authors wrote that imaging and spectroscopy affirm a “file of excessive mass-loss occasions over the previous few hundred years.”

“The similarity of this correspondence in VY [Canis Majoris] with the outstanding latest dimming of Betelgeuse and an outflow of gasoline is clear,” they mentioned. “The proof for comparable outflows from the floor of a extra typical pink supergiant means that discrete ejections are extra frequent and floor or convective exercise is a serious supply of mass loss for pink supergiants.”

In a Thursday press launch from NASA, the College of Minnesota’s Distinguished Professor Roberta Humphreys defined that Hubble knowledge confirmed VY Canis Majoris behaving like Betelgeuse “on steroids.” 

This artist’s impression of the hypergiant star VY Canis Majoris reveals the star’s giant convection cells and large arcs. Credit: NASA, ESA, and R. Humphreys (College of Minnesota), and J. Olmsted (STScI)

Within the case of the smaller star, researchers say that the dimming was attributable to an outflow of gasoline that will have fashioned mud which briefly obstructed a few of the star’s gentle. 

“I believe the massive takeaway about these outcomes, is that the large ejections or outflows from the star noticed within the [Hubble] pictures and measured within the spectra are correlated with intervals of nice variability and deep minima in its gentle noticed over two centuries,” Humphreys advised Fox Information on Friday. 

“We expect this is because of exercise or convection on the floor accountable for huge gaseous ejections,” she continued. “For instance, we all know that the solar has flares and outburst of flows of gasoline we see as prominences.”


“In VY Canis Majoris — 30 [times the] mass of [the] solar and 300,000 extra luminous — that is rather more excessive,” she mentioned. “These gaseous outflows could also be as a lot as 10 instances the mass of Jupiter.”

Arcs of plasma encompass VY Canis Majoris, showing to have been forged out from it by distances which are hundreds of instances farther away than the Earth is from the solar and over the previous a number of hundred years.

Nonetheless, different buildings near the thousands and thousands of years-old star — which seem like knots — are comparatively compact and scientists working with Humphrey have been capable of date newer eruptions to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries when VY Canis Majoris light to one-sixth of its authentic brightness.

The discharge notes that the hypergiant loses 100 instances as a lot mass at Betelgeuse and is now solely seen utilizing a telescope.

“That is in all probability extra frequent in pink supergiants than scientists thought and VY Canis Majoris is an excessive instance,” she mentioned within the launch. “It might even be the primary mechanism that is driving the mass loss, which has all the time been a little bit of a thriller for pink supergiants.”


The way forward for the beginning is unsure, however Humphreys mentioned that the star is “clearly unstable.”

“This excessive mass loss will decide its eventual destiny both as a supernova or black gap,” she mentioned.

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