These images and this graph show in the brightness of the red supergiant star Betelgeuse following an enormous mass ejection of a large piece of its visible surface. The escaping material cooled to form a cloud of dust, temporarily dimming the star look as seen from Earth. This unprecedented stellar convulsion disrupted the star’s 400-day-long oscillation period astronomers have been observing for more than 200 years.
Image Credits: NASA / ESA / Elizabeth Wheatley (STScI)
This image of the supergiant star Betelgeuse was taken by the ESO’s Very Large Telescope. Even looking through the Earth’s turbulent atmosphere, the resolution is as fine as 37 milliarcseconds. (An arcsecond is 1/3600 of a degree. A milliarcsecond is 1/1000 arcsecond.) That’s roughly the same as being able to see a tennis ball on the ground from the International Space Station.
The supergiant star Betelgeuse, the bright red star in Orion’s shoulder, is surrounded by an envelope of nearby material which is probably matter that it shed as it evolved into a supergiant. The arcs to the left in this image taken by the Herschel Space Observatory are material ejected from the star as it evolved into a red supergiant, and are shaped by its bow shock interaction as it move through the interstellar medium. The faint linear bar of dust on the left may represent a dusty filament connected to the local galactic magnetic field or the edge of an interstellar cloud. If so, then Betelgeuse’s motion across the sky implies that the arcs will hit the wall in 5,000 years time, and the star itself will smack into the wall 12,500 years later.