A team of experts says the star Betelgeuse is recovering from a massive “never-before-seen” surface mass ejection that obscured it.
When the bright red supergiant star Betelgeuse exploded in 2019, the Hubble Space Telescope and other observatories were there to see it.
Through this surface mass ejection, Betelgeuse discharged 400 billion times more mass than the Sun during a typical coronal mass ejection, a regular event in which the Sun releases part of its outer atmosphere, called the corona.
However, this wasn’t some kind of supernova ending.
Betelgeuse is one of the most prominent stars in the Milky Way, which is part of the Orion constellation and apparently continues to act like a normal star, and may even be recovering.
After analyzing data from 2019, astronomers concluded that this is behavior we have never seen before in a normal star.
Data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and several other observatories.
“Betelgeuse is still doing very unusual things now. The inside is like jumping.”
The 2019 surface mass ejection exploded atop Betelgeuse, and recovery from something so devastating is a rocky road.
“We have never seen such a large mass ejection from the surface of a star before. We come across something happening that we don’t fully understand. It’s an entirely new phenomenon that we can directly observe and resolve surface details with Hubble. We are observing stellar evolution in real time.”
Could a supernova occur?
The 2019 surface mass ejection exploded at the top of Betelgeuse.
Betelgeuse is so prominent in the Milky Way that such a magnificent event not only provides a series of world firsts in the study of stars, but may continue to provide a foundation of knowledge about how stars act before, during and after a surface mass ejection. .
Since this event occurs before any definitive supernova event – and there is no evidence that it will happen soon – there may be plenty of time to observe the progression.
Researchers now believe the 2019 event came from a convective plume more than a million kilometers deep inside the star.
The shocks and pulsations tore off a chunk of the photosphere, leaving a cold surface beneath a cloud of dust.
This fractured chunk, several times heavier than the Moon, dimmed the star so much that the difference could be seen without a telescope.
The supergiant star’s 400-day pulsation rate has disappeared, and Dupree says the star’s interior convection cells that drive the pulsation may be “running out like an unbalanced washing machine.”
Hubble data suggests the outer layer may have recovered, but the surface is “bouncing around like a slab of Jell-O as the photosphere rebuilds.”