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Space Science

Could Betelgeuse Go Boom? 383

Posted by timothy
from the betelgeuse-betelgeuse-betelgeuse-winona dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The answer is No. In space, nobody can hear you scream. However, it might go supernova in the near future, if it hasn't already. I wanna see that, even if it would permanently disfigure Orion. Ka freaking bam!"
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Could Betelgeuse Go Boom?

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  • Nova Post! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 11, 2009 @10:25PM (#28303537)

    Boom!

    • by beav007 (746004) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @11:31PM (#28304063) Journal
      Where was the ka-boom? There was supposed to be a betelgeuse-shattering ka-boom!!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Z00L00K (682162)

      Seriously - If it goes supernova we should be a bit worried because it's close enough to drown us with radiation.

      If that happens all our petty bickering on this planet will seem insignificant.

      Of course - it's not certain that the radiation will be strong enough to kill off all life, but things will probably change a lot.

      • Re:Nova Post! (Score:5, Informative)

        by beowulfcluster (603942) on Friday June 12, 2009 @03:05AM (#28304971)
        "Since its rotational axis is not toward the Earth, Betelgeuse's supernova would not cause a gamma ray burst in the direction of Earth large enough to damage its ecosystem even from a relatively close proximity of 520 light years."

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betelgeuse [wikipedia.org]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 11, 2009 @10:28PM (#28303555)

    It's probably gonna blow the next time Lydia yells Betelgeuse 3 times.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @10:29PM (#28303567)

    Global warming.

  • Wow, Great Summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kotoku (1531373) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @10:30PM (#28303571) Journal
    That is one heck of a summary. I really like how a line and a half of text is qualifying as a story these days.

    Is it THAT slow of a news day, or could no one else possibly outdo this clown of a submitter?
    • You must be ... (Score:3, Informative)

      by cpu_fusion (705735)

      ... new here. ;-)

      • by MrMista_B (891430)

        In Soviet Russia, a beowulf cluster of sharks with frikken lasor beams on their heads scientology's Roland!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MrMista_B (891430)

      I think the editors or owners of Slashdot are either 1) Trying to increase viewership by appealing to a lowest denominator (Star go boom! Big word scary! Chemicals are mean! Vroom vroom car!) or 2) Trying to deliberately weaken the readership for purposes I can only speculate that. That second theory is bolstered by the clumsy rolling out of 'features' during the past few weeks - breaking things that once worked, adding new features that don't, and in general doing their best to make the site almost more tr

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I have no inside information, but it's apparent to me that Slsahdot is trying to be the new 'Facebook' or 'MySpace' for geeks. Or something. I'm expecting any day now the ability to add tacky photos, weird fonts and poor layouts to your journal pages.

        Furthermore, I think that much of the original geek crowd is gone or mostly in lurk mode. So they are doing their best to attract a younger audience.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 11, 2009 @11:56PM (#28304207)

          Furthermore, I think that much of the original geek crowd is gone or mostly in lurk mode.

          How true. Not that it was ever Shangri-La, but Slashdot did once have some interesting and informative discussions on, you know, technical matters.

          So they are doing their best to attract a younger audience.

          And making it another pile of useless shit like Digg or Reddit is precisely the wrong way to do that. A younger audience can be intelligent too, dontchaknow. Competing for the large but well-served market (if you can call it that) of the sort of drooling morons who argue in YouTube comments is ultimately futile.

          Shorter: we can has good geek site again?

        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 12, 2009 @12:08AM (#28304289)

          Furthermore, I think that much of the original geek crowd is gone or mostly in lurk mode. So they are doing their best to attract a younger audience.

          I don't think they're gone, and lurk mode depends on your definition of it. If I'm sitting around with a bunch of geeks talking about non-technical stuff, I don't think that makes it lurk mode so much as everyday conversation. When we have technical discussions on here, the level of discussion isn't the same as a professional journal but it's very impressive for a public forum filled with a diverse technical audience. It's still a common occurrence where I see posts on here that give me insight on an issue that I may never have otherwise come across; there are even fairly profound anecdotes.

          I also tend to guess that people remember the olden days as being better than they were. I think the signal to noise in replies has gone up, but moderation takes care of that. The stories, well, frankly I've been here ten years now and I don't remember a time where people weren't groaning at a lot of the stories. I wasn't as regular of a reader back then, but I certainly remember vitriolic replies to every Katz story I saw.

          A lot of times I see people whine about stories on here, it's seems to be myopic assholes who expect slashdot to cater to exactly their tastes to the detriment of everyone else -- and expect top shelf journalism despite it being free and them making little to no contribution of any type at all. I've seen complaints about technical stories, hard science stories, what I would call soft science interest stories, stories about new products, lots of the stories about nerd or geek culture. There's really very few types of stories that seem to be without complaint; if slashdot went the blameless route, it might have three stories a week and it'd miss a shitload of stuff that's quite interesting if you're a person who's actually curious about the world. If you want to complain about the quality of the actual writing, then I suggest you submit more stories with high quality writing -- this is a user-driven site after all.

        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          Having "journal pages" was bad enough.

        • by Sir_Lewk (967686) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (kwelris)> on Friday June 12, 2009 @12:58AM (#28304499)

          tacky photos, weird fonts and poor layouts

          Don't worry, they're currently hard at work on it.

          http://www.cs.drexel.edu/~jlg95/stuff/shittycode.png [drexel.edu]

        • by vigmeister (1112659) on Friday June 12, 2009 @12:58AM (#28304501)

          The new Slashdot. News for nerds with girlfriends.

      • by Allicorn (175921) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @11:09PM (#28303927) Homepage

        "Show us your Warcraft main".

        Your case is proven.

      • by TapeCutter (624760) * on Thursday June 11, 2009 @11:45PM (#28304137) Journal
        "Does anyone else have any suggestions"

        1.Lay down on the floor and throw a tantrum.

        2.Start your own SlashNot site.
      • by Errtu76 (776778)

        Continuing to be OT, why did the scrolling through comments become so horribly slow?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by kungfugleek (1314949)

        Star go boom! Big word scary! Chemicals are mean! Vroom vroom car!

        Yes? Yes? Go on.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That is one heck of a summary. I really like how a line and a half of text is qualifying as a story these days. Is it THAT slow of a news day, or could no one else possibly outdo this clown of a submitter?

      or you could just lighten up.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      In 800 pixels wide it's 7 lines of text.

      Not that it makes it any longer. And on a 30" it must be like half a line. Just saying...

    • by Quothz (683368) on Friday June 12, 2009 @01:40AM (#28304629) Journal

      That is one heck of a summary. I really like how a line and a half of text is qualifying as a story these days.

      That's what you call your executive summary.

  • by FudRucker (866063) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @10:30PM (#28303575)
    Its showtime
  • Yes (Score:5, Informative)

    by MaskedSlacker (911878) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @10:31PM (#28303579)

    The anonymous reader is wrong. A supernova would be accompanied by a large amount of shockwaves through the star, and a large amount of pressure waves. There would be no sound, in the sense that there would be no neurological interpretations of these phenomena, but they would still happen.

    • It would only count as a sound if it kills a mime.
    • The question for me is how long does the bad stuff last?. If the answer if less than 12 hours then I will be hoping it happens just after Betelgeuse drops below the horizon at 144 degrees east.
      • Re:Yes (Score:5, Informative)

        by RsG (809189) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @10:56PM (#28303811)

        Won't matter much.

        First up, let me preface this by saying a supernova happening at six hundred light years is probably no big deal. Probably. However, there is some evidence that gamma ray bursts might be the product of a sufficiently massive star dying and producing a black hole, in which case we could be in trouble if we were struck be such an event at close range.

        But having the bulk of the earth between yourself and such an event would not save you. Remember that we're talking about enough energy here to be detected over intergalactic distances using fairly rudimentary instruments. That much ionizing radiation will cause sufficient damage to the world's surface on the facing side to ensure the deaths of everyone globally.

        However, this presumes that A) GRBs are in fact supernovae emanations, B) Betelgeuse will produce such an event if (when) it dies and C) the energy will be directed at us. There is some support for the idea that long GRBs occur as "jet" effects in two polar opposite directions, which would explain why we don't see them every time a star goes kaput. We need to be in the line of sight. If this were a common occurrence for the earth, it is very likely we would not be here at all.

    • It's likely that sound can be detected in space with the use of laser microphones. The sound won't be conducted through space, but that doesn't mean the ejecta isn't quivering, or that the quivering can't be neurologically assimilated.

  • Nebulous (Score:4, Funny)

    by Penguinshit (591885) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @10:31PM (#28303581) Homepage Journal
    This constellation ain't big enough for two nebulae!
  • by nesfreak64 (1093307) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @10:31PM (#28303585) Journal
    It's 640 light years away (give or take). Would the neutrinos affect us at all? Is this another doomsday scenario? I would imagine that it'd be hellishly bright in the night sky. What does science say about it? I'm rusty on my astronomy, but it'd be awesome to see.
    • by RsG (809189) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @10:40PM (#28303651)

      Would the neutrinos affect us at all? Is this another doomsday scenario?

      Please, please tell me this was a joke. Please tell me you actually understood what a neutrino is, and were intentionally posting something absurd.

      In the off-chance you were serious, a neutrino doesn't interact with matter enough to do any damage. This is not a matter of any uncertainty. A single neutrino would have a chance of passing through several light years of solid lead without interacting with a single atom. Neutrinos are sleeting through your body right now from the centre of the sun; they pass through the suns outer layers unimpeded, and if the sun isn't overhead wherever you are right now, then they've also passed through the innards of the earth.

      Neutrinos can't affect us. Or the earth, or much of anything, really.

      • by Viadd (173388) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @11:17PM (#28303983)

        The neutrinos from a core collapse supernova would be lethal to humans at the distance of Jupiter. Any given neutrino has very little chance of hitting interacting with normal density matter it passes through, but there are a LOT of neutrinos: about 0.05 solar masses of them.

        Furthermore, they are the first things that escape from the core (apart from gravitational waves) since they move at near-lightspeed and have very little chance of interacting with the envelope of the star. The big flashy special effects are driven by the shockwave from the core reaching the surface, and that takes hours. So if you were at the distance of Jupiter, you would have time to die from neutrino effects before the blast hit you.

        Admittedly, Betelgeuse is somewhat further away than Jupiter, and the only neutrino effects are likely to be a lot of very excited astrophysicists. But both Jupiter and Betelgeuse are much closer than 99.9999999999999999999% of the Universe, and much further away than everyone you've ever met, so the distance scales aren't that different.

        • by RsG (809189)

          The neutrinos from a core collapse supernova would be lethal to humans at the distance of Jupiter

          I'm not going to put an obnoxious citation needed tag here, but damned if I wasn't tempted. That's the first I've ever heard of neutrinos being deadly to anything at all. I'm understandably sceptical.

          I don't suppose you remember the source for that? I'd be curious to see the details.

          That being said, the distance between the sun and Jupiter is on the order of tens of light minutes, whereas here to Betelgeuse is hundreds of light years. They may both be, as you say, close to us in astronomical terms, but

          • by radtea (464814) on Friday June 12, 2009 @12:04AM (#28304261)

            That's the first I've ever heard of neutrinos being deadly to anything at all. I'm understandably sceptical.

            The neutrino emissions from a supernova would be lethal to humans out to a light year or so. Really. Cross-section is ~10e-40 cm^2, average energy is 1 MeV-ish. You work it out.

          • by ceoyoyo (59147)

            I was going to reply with "work it out", but I see someone beat me to it. He even provided the necessary numbers, available on wikipedia.

            Of course, if you're far enough away to survive all the other particles, the neutrinos aren't going to bother you, but you're right, it's interesting to know that neutrinos could kill you. It gives you something of sense of the scale of a supernova. It's even more satisfying to be able to work it out.

        • by Ihlosi (895663) on Friday June 12, 2009 @04:12AM (#28305255)

          The neutrinos from a core collapse supernova would be lethal to humans at the distance of Jupiter.

          I think if you're that close to a supernova, you've got much, much bigger problems than neutrinos.

      • Yes. A Neutrino is a zero without a rim.
    • by GrpA (691294) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @10:43PM (#28303679)

      More of note.

      If it's 640 light years away, then it probably went boom 640 years ago.

      Which only makes sense, since after all, 640 years should be enough for anyone.

      GrpA

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by chill (34294)

      640 light years should be enough for anyone

    • 640 light years? That ought to be enough for anybody.

  • wow (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Criliric (879949)
    For all of us so far its part of a sight that has never changed as much as the naked eye could tell, and yet to have it possibly change... it would be cool to see, but disappointing at the same time. What I'm wondering now is not how this will affect us, but how it would affect the potential life forms out in that area of the universe, if any at all... to someone or something out there is this the end of all life as they know it? the start of a new change if the ability to move civilizations has become a re
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Betelgeuse is a very young star. It's only a handful of millions of years old. It is extremely unlikely for there to be any simple life around it, and no chance of any civilizations that didn't have the ability to travel interstellar distances on their own - as if they are there, they had to come from somewhere else.

  • by Bieeanda (961632) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @10:34PM (#28303605)
    There was supposed to be an Earth-shattering kaboom!
  • No, sorry, not likely to be a in death throes, TFA states it is a potato shaped star that rotates every 18 years, thus it's likely an illusion.

    Not big enough and close enough to be a hazard to us? ... is it??
  • So Ford Prefect would have his home planet's neighbour explode, too? (He comes from a planet somewhere around Betelgeuse) Pity.
  • by jeffb (2.718) (1189693) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @11:09PM (#28303933)

    ...rippling bands across the ground from atmospheric turbulence, razor-sharp shadows everywhere, with prominent diffraction rings around the ones from faraway objects. And a flaming rainbow streak, blue at the top, shading down through green to red, as it rises or sets in a clear sky.

    If my calculations are right, it won't burn your eyes; it would be roughly equivalent to looking into a 4-microwatt laser, not nearly strong enough to be dangerous. A 10-inch telescope could collimate it into a 5-mW beam, bright enough to see passing through the air, if only it were dark outside. The Palomar reflector would collect closer to 2 watts, enough to start fires and such.

    If it happened this month, most everybody north of the Antarctic Circle would be cruelly cheated. Any time from August through April, though, it should be visible in the night sky from just about anywhere but that same Antarctic. And yes, I'd be willing to drag myself out of bed pre-dawn for this.

    • Wait a sec (Score:3, Interesting)

      by eclectro (227083)

      In your calculations you forgot the small factoid that it may be another thousand years before it goes supernova. It has brightened considerably in the past only to dim back down. It was Fox news (fair and balanced) that mentions it going supernova, not the paper presented at the meeting that merely states a 15% shrinkage and nothing else.

      So,you might would have to drag/dig yourself out of the ground to see the Betelgeuse supernova. And most zombies I know about are more interested in brains than astronomy.

  • by BlackSabbath (118110) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @11:11PM (#28303947) Homepage

    Let's hope Zaphod or Ford weren't visiting relatives at the time.

  • Oh no! (Score:5, Funny)

    by lord_mike (567148) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @11:16PM (#28303973)

    I hope this doesn't interfere with the Green Orion Women Slave Trade from Star Trek...

  • by syousef (465911) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @11:25PM (#28304027) Journal

    ...are candidates

    You get a lot of talk about how spectacular Eta Carinae would be if it went up. There's already been a Supernova "imposter" event...
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eta_Carinae [wikipedia.org] ..and here's some analysis of whether it's a danger.
    http://stupendous.rit.edu/richmond/answers/snrisks.txt [rit.edu] ...or has done so already
    http://cdsweb.cern.ch/record/246576/files/th-6805-93.ps.gz [cdsweb.cern.ch]

  • There are some jokes in the Hitchhiker's trilogy that are hard to get, but this one from the Restaurant took me the longest:

            "Did you know," interrupting the ghostly figure, fixing Zaphod with a stern look, "that Betelgeuse Five has developed a very slight eccentricy in its orbit?"

    So DNA was just joking about the impeding nova, giving a clue in the disturbances it would cause in its planets' orbits.

    Shit, I feel dumb.

  • New Sensationalist (Score:5, Informative)

    by Charles Dodgeson (248492) * <jeffrey@goldmark.org> on Thursday June 11, 2009 @11:33PM (#28304065) Homepage Journal
    Somebody ought to go through back issues of the New Sensationalist [newscientist.com] and look at all of their predictions or reports of great inventions or processes "that will be commercialized in two or three years" to see what their track record is. I wonder if they can live up to the standards set by astrologers.
  • by AbsoluteXyro (1048620) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @11:33PM (#28304067)
    We've known for some time now that Betelgeuse is a red supergiant, and we have also known that the red supergiant phase of a star's life only lasts roughly one million years, tops. Being that Betelgeuse is a few million years old, we can deduce that it may be well into it's red supergiant phase, and given that it is 600 light-years away, it is possible that the star has already gone super-nova (type II) and the resulting light from the blast has not yet reached us. Now I understand that the article is saying the star appears to be shrinking, however the star (like any red supergiant) has a history of expanding and contracting. Per the article, it could be any number of things. I really don't think it is anything to get worked up about. Not that sensationalism isn't fun.
  • Oh no! (Score:5, Funny)

    by ggvaidya (747058) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @11:35PM (#28304073) Homepage Journal

    Betelgeuse is awesome and very, very pretty - I'd hate for it to turn into another colour or vanish altogether. Isn't there someone we could petition to stop this?

  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @11:37PM (#28304091)
    If it's going to go boom, expect the signs of it to arrive in 2012 to coincide with other endings predicted for that year. And expect this to be a total insult to the Egyptian Pharaohs who seemed to revere that star above just about all else.

    Are we really sure we're far enough away to be safe? I've heard before that a supernova even dozens of lightyears away would be a very bad thing for Earth.
  • Never got to see a bright supernova but I do lament the loss of Orion. I chose Orion as part of my business name, and the logo even includes the three central stars: Mintaka, Al Nilam and Al Nitak. Got to love the old Arabic names of things.
  • Douglas Adams recorded a brief history of this catastrophe... It is only now in the near future that the light will reach Earth and that we may observe with our antiquated electromagnetic telescopes.

  • Relitivity (Score:4, Insightful)

    by vikstar (615372) on Friday June 12, 2009 @12:47AM (#28304461) Journal

    However, it might go supernova in the near future, if it hasn't already

    It hasn't already, because we haven't seen it go boom yet. Even if it is half a millennium away in terms of light travel time, from our frame of reference it will only go boom when we observe it to.

  • by kwerle (39371) <kurt@CircleW.org> on Friday June 12, 2009 @03:11AM (#28304985) Homepage Journal

    OK, I read the article. It says that the star has been shrinking and mentions a few hypothesis.

    None of them say anything about nova - super or otherwise.

    Some of the comments on the article do.

    Could we fire the editor? Please?

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