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Space Science

Surface Plume On Betelgeuse Imaged 51

BJ_Covert_Action writes "Astronomy Now is running a piece regarding some new, exquisitely detailed pictures taken of Betelgeuse, a star in the constellation Orion. Betelgeuse is classified as a supergiant star, and its diameter is approximately 1,000 times that of the sun. Two teams of astronomers used ESO's 'Very large Telescope,' its NACO instruments, and an imaging technique known as 'Lucky Imaging' to take some of the most detailed pictures of Betelgeuse to date. The new pictures reveal a gas plume on Betelgeuse which extends from the surface of the star a distance greater than that between our sun and Neptune. The images also show several other 'boiling' spots on the surface of Betelgeuse, revealing the surface to be quite tumultuous. Currently, it is known that stars of Betelgeuse's size eject the equivalent mass of the Earth into space every year. This recent astronomy work will help researchers determine the mechanics behind such ejections." Update — 8/05 at 13:31 by SS: Here's the original press release from the European Southern Observatory, since the Astronomy Now page has slowed to a crawl.
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Surface Plume On Betelgeuse Imaged

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  • FP (Score:4, Funny)

    by El Torico ( 732160 ) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @09:11AM (#28955947)

    First plume!

  • Obligatory (Score:2, Funny)

    by iveygman ( 1303733 )
    Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse!
  • by g5g5g5 ( 414184 ) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @09:21AM (#28956073)

    If we just obtained the most detail picture evar, why do they show an artist's impression?

    • First thought I had was "Wow. Telescopy has really evolved!" Then the small print said "artist's impression", and the actual image of a blue smudge just wasn't all that exciting anymore.
      • by Bemopolis ( 698691 ) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @09:51AM (#28956513)
        Welcome to astronomy!
      • LMAO, same here. I got this "holy fucking fuck" thought in my head until I realized. :D

        Damn. But still impressive, especially given Earth's damn atmosphere in the way. And that artist's impression would be perfect as a schematic picture for Betelguese to complement its Wikipedia article, and possibly even the supergiant article, if it just wasn't for that one probably being an ESA picture. ESA has a far less permissive license than NASA. :-(

      • by fbjon ( 692006 )
        Then let me reinstate some excitement: compare with a photo of Pluto's surface [] taken by Hubble. Betelgeuse is at least 800 000 times further away.
      • by Minwee ( 522556 )

        Astronomy ain't like dusting crops, kid. Without artist's impressions we could fly right through a star, or bounce too close to a supernova and that'd end your trip real quick, wouldn't it?

        Seriously, though, a smudge with any kind of detail at all is pretty impressive when all you've ever seen are point sources. The problem is that non-astronomers often find real astronomy to be about as exciting as reading detailed baseball statistics is to non-sports fans.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by tnk1 ( 899206 )

          I heard that Betelgeuse actually had a decent ERA last season. It'll make the All-Star team for sure!

        • about as exciting as reading detailed baseball statistics is to non-sports fans

          Now, now, I don't think even THAT is exciting for sports fans.

      • Then the small print said "artist's impression", and the actual image of a blue smudge just wasn't all that exciting anymore.

        Speak for yourself. I saw it and thought "That's a real image of a star 640 light years away". I don't care how blurry it is. Betelgeuse just became that much more real to me today.

        Imagine what we could see with another Hubble telescope.

        •   Same here. When I was little I felt the same way about seeing images from the Mariners, Vikings, Pioneer and Voyager probes. Wow!

            Now we're actually starting to image stars, and not all that much later, really. A couple generations.

            What wonders will we see in another quarter century? Imagine what we could do with large scopes in Sol orbit, baselines on the order of hundreds of thousands of kilometers, adaptive optics and modern software...


    • Because the image is a boring blur, and is shown below anyway.

    • by noundi ( 1044080 ) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @10:12AM (#28956881)
      Short answer: People are idiots.

      Long answer: Since the picture taken isn't very appealing for the general population such a headline might be confusing and in the end disappointing for the common reader. In order to reach out to the masses one needs to compromise so that anyone, besides astronomers or those interested in astronomy, can find it interesting. While ESO published the artists picture as well it seems that other news publishers have chosen to focus on it rather than providing it as an insightful interpretation to what the star might look like. Since the picture is undoubtly beautiful it will most likely spread faster and wider than the story would alone, giving the story a chance to hitch a ride on this fame. Naturally this means more advertisement exposure for the news sites that published the story resulting in additional revenue.
      • At least they included a ruler, right? The article said the gas plume extended the equivalent distance of Neptune. The artist's impression shows the distance ratios, somewhat.

    • by pz ( 113803 )

      If we just obtained the most detail picture evar, why do they show an artist's impression?

      The question is put better why did they lead with the artist's impression, rather than the actual data, and why didn't they ask an astronomer about the image -- star surfaces are not anywhere near that bumpy, except, I imagine, when there's something catastrophic going on. Celestial objects, especially big ones, are exceedingly smooth.

      • > surfaces are not anywhere near that bumpy, except, I imagine, when
        > there's something catastrophic going on.

        I believe that is an accurate description of Betelgeuse. I agree that the "artists impression" is silly, though.

    • Think of the artists impression as the "executive summary" for those without the scientific background
    • I saw this at my local science museum. I went ther to look at decent feeds space shuttle space walks on their NASA TV. To me this is absolutely fascinating to see live astronauts and the earth moving below. But as action TV, its pretty dull. Most of the museum patrons were watching simulated animations of space probes on another monitor. That was far more flashy!
  • Working link (Score:5, Informative)

    by MutantEnemy ( 545783 ) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @09:28AM (#28956177) Homepage

    This appears to be a more useful link: []

  • Perhaps the gas plume is why a hrung chose to collapse on Betelguese 7?

    • I thought you were going to quote the story surrounding zaphod beeblebrox's birth, i don't have my books handy so I can't look it up.
  • by DaPh00z ( 840056 ) * on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @10:38AM (#28957357)
    You can view this image and many other interesting photos at the Astronomy Picture of the Day website. []
  • Artist Interpretation + Photoshop = Space Goatse
  • says 1000 times the diameter, of our star. The description on ESO is a very big sun. The post here suggests a whopper a billion times the size of our sun.

    I am guessing that the poster here made a transcription error. A little numeracy could go a long way.

    1000 times the size != 1000 times the diameter.

    1000 times the diameter = 1,000,000,000 times the size.
    • by R2.0 ( 532027 )

      So you are saying it's not the length but the girth that matters?

      • As our sun is spherical, and not turd shaped, as it is the womb from which all non hydrogen elements are born and because it can in no way be said to have a sense of humour, I always assumed dick jokes were unlikely.
  • TFA mentions that when the star "goes supernova", that we'll be able to see it unaided even during the day. But if it's shedding mass so quickly, perhaps by the time its internal furnace cools down, the star won't have sufficient surface mass to cause the kind of collapse necessary to create a supernova?
    • It's a *big* star, and earth isn't that large of a planet. I suppose it all depends on how long it takes before the supernova. Like....when the car runs over a nail, is it going to have a blowout, or just a whimper because of the previously-existing slow leak?
  • Syreens (Score:3, Funny)

    by molnarcs ( 675885 ) <> on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @12:35PM (#28959293) Homepage Journal
    *Yawn* Wake me up when you got a picture of the Syreen station orbiting Betelgeuse.

"An open mind has but one disadvantage: it collects dirt." -- a saying at RPI