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Space Science

Rumor of Betelgeuse's Death Greatly Exaggerated 356

The Bad Astronomer writes "A rumor is spreading on the Net like wildfire that the red supergiant star Betelgeuse is about to explode in a supernova. This rumor is almost certainly not true. First, it's posted on a doomsday forum. Second, it's three times removed from the source, and is anonymous at each step. Third, the evidence is shaky at best. Plus, even if true, the supernova is too far away to hurt us. But other than that ..."
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Rumor of Betelgeuse's Death Greatly Exaggerated

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  • Of course it is. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @06:31PM (#32424996)

    Betelgeuse. Betelgeuse. Betelgeuse.

    There he is right there.

  • Who cares? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @06:33PM (#32425020)
    If Betelgeuse goes supernova tomorrow, it will take 495 years for the light to reach us! Or are we arguing about whether or not it went supernova 495 years ago...
  • Seriously? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PingXao ( 153057 ) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @06:34PM (#32425026)

    I mean, does this story warrant inclusion on slashdot? There are plenty of other places to go for bad rumors and conspiracy theories.

  • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @06:37PM (#32425056)

    Hmm... That's almost more interesting to me. Seems pretty odd to have a doomsday forum. If you think the world is ending soon, you're going to be online, chatting about it? Are the doomsday predictions spinning off to places other than Earth because doomsayers realized they're tired of being wrong and if they're right about predicting the earth's demise, they won't get any credit for it?

  • News? (Score:2, Informative)

    What's new here? It's long been known that Betelgeuse is a massive post main sequence star and will explode as a supernova in the (astronomical) near future.
    • Re:News? (Score:4, Informative)

      by shadowbearer ( 554144 ) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @07:05PM (#32425396) Homepage Journal

        What's new is that the doomsday tomorrow nuts have something else to latch on to, since 2012 has been thoroughly debunked.

        Of course it is possible that it already has gone supernova, and that the light and hard gamma front will reach us tomorrow morning.

        Fortunately it's far enough away that the only people who are going to notice anything other than a bright light in the sky are gamma ray astronomers, and astronomers who work on supernova theory.

        It'll be a great day for astronomers when it does go, however, a supernova that close and that thoroughly studied will give us a lot of hard information on supernova. For example, IIRC Betelgeuse was the one of the first stars to actually have it's angular diameter measured (1921) and surface imaged using interferometry.

        I'm old enough to remember when they imaged it's surface, at the time it was an incredible achievement.


      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        If Betelgeuse does go supernova, it will definitely be a naked eye object. For example, the Crab supernova was recorded by Chinese astronomers who noted a bright object in the sky during the day.
        •   Like I said, for most everyone it'll be a bright light in the sky... actually, given it's proximity and size, it'll probably be easily visible in daylight. That would be awesome, supernova that bright are extremely rare :-)


          • by Shag ( 3737 )

            I would hope for visibility by daylight, since Orion is basically only up during the day this time of year!

            Clever, clever kooks - pick a target that's practically un-observable when you make your big "announcement." :)

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        2012 hasn't been thoroughly debunked. It's still 2010. Just wait 2 more years, then it'll be thoroughly debunked.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @06:39PM (#32425086)
    Nobody yet knows where the Hrung is, nor why it should choose to collapse on Betelgeuse Seven.
  • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @06:41PM (#32425132) Homepage Journal

    I don't see any Pierson's Puppeteers around. I think we should get out of here.

  • I also heard... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Itninja ( 937614 ) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @06:42PM (#32425136) Homepage
    ...on very good authority that, in two weeks, Mars will appears as big as the MOON in the night sky!!

    I swear I have assuage my Mom's fear about that one every year. I would just send her to Snopes. But the copious pop-under ads, malware, etc. makes me think I would be causing more problems that I would solve.... "No Mom. You cannot make win a free XBox by punching that monkey...". But I digress.
  • is a weaker assumption than almost surely not true... so it might.

  • Anyone with a good telescope available?!

    Coincidentally, I heard this rumour today! Would make a nice companion to SN 1987A for astronomers

    Oh well, ask again in one thousand years...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Anyone with a good telescope available?!

      The one thing I don't want to be doing if Betelgeuse goes supernova is looking at it with a telescope.

      (not with my remaining good eye that is).

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Shag ( 3737 )

      Anyone with a good telescope available?!

      Depends what you consider "good." If you're thinking of something in the $199-$15,999 price range, with an aperture of 4-16 inches (which should be plenty for just looking at a nearby supernova, then the 16" Meade or one of the 14" Celestrons where I stargaze [] should work.

      If, on the other hand, you're thinking more in the $3,000,000-$400,000,000 range, then I'd have to schlep all the way up to the general vicinity [] of work [].

      But I'm relatively certain that even folks around work would be interested in looking

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @06:47PM (#32425188)

    In other news, the M1 nebula is NOT... I repeat, *not* about to disappear.

    Bernard's Star is also NOT going nova this week. Probably not next week either.

    Also, do not panic. Neptune is quite stable in its orbit and is NOT about to collide with Jupiter, say astronomers. Repeat, it *will not* collide.

    • by sznupi ( 719324 )

      You know, for some relative values of now you can see, unfolding before our eyes (ok, "damn sensitive satellites"), events from a time not long after Big Bang. I've heard those are some damn hostile condiditions and will bring, in the end, nothing good for anyone involved... ;)

      • Point out to the doomsdayers that radiation from the Big Bang, the largest explosion in the history of the universe and unimaginably large compared to a mere supernova, is about to strike the Earth.

  • by interval1066 ( 668936 ) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @06:59PM (#32425318) Homepage Journal
    The Apocalypse, the Communist Conspiracy, The Mayan Calendar, Global Warming, Global Freezing, The Heat Death of the Universe, The Comet Calamity, Alien Invasion, The Super Bug, Al-Qaeda, The Neo Nazis, The Neocons, the Return of the Old Ones, Tesla's Super Weapon, The Collapse of the Dollar, The Collapse of the Universe... I don't quite get why we're still here. We should have been wiped out many times over.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Oh come on, everyone knows the Mayan Calendar has been debunked.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by vertinox ( 846076 )

      Because if anyone (or anything) is around to notice itself existing, it is safe to say conditions appear to allow their existence. Ergo, only those who who live in those conditions will be around questioning why would everything work out so nice for life when the universe appears quite hostile towards existence.

      See: Anthropic principle []

  • Did it explode 640 years ago and we're about to witness it? Or is it going to explode soon, and future generations can witness it?

    • Considering that the only observations we get happened 640 years ago, I'm assuming it's the former.

    • Or is it going to explode soon, and future generations can witness it?

      How would we know, until its light reaches us? Nothing can travel faster than light, not even knowledge.
  • by russlar ( 1122455 )
    Yay! Ford Prefect can still go home!
  • ugh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nomadic ( 141991 ) <nomadicworld AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @07:15PM (#32425504) Homepage
    The blog writer complains that this rumor is "spreading like wildfire" but only cites to a single forum where the rumor apparently started. The blow writer then makes a snide comment about a "doomsday" forum, and then spends time with what appears to be an exasperated manner of speaking declaring that a supernova at that distance wouldn't cause any danger, only the original forum post never said it would--it basically saying how cool this would be to see. Why does it feel like a manufactured controversy? As best I can tell this anonymous forum poster may have been mistaken, but the reaction from the Discover blog is ridiculously out of proportion to that mistake.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by amicusNYCL ( 1538833 )

      Probably because of statements like these:

      When it collapses, it will be at least as bright as the full moon, and maybe as bright as the sun. For six weeks. So the really lucky folks (for whom Betelgeuse is only visible at night) will get 24 hour days, everybody else will get at least some time with two suns in the sky. The extra hour of light from daylight savings time won't burn the crops, but this might.

      If this is really as bright as the sun (and no one is really sure; this is about the biggest star that's ever been recorded)...then all the other doom scenarios become small beer.....

      Hmm all this talk of 6 weeks of constant daylight and two suns in the sky from Betelgeuse which happens to be not far away at all from where google sky, wiki etc blacked out an area said to contain nibiru

      photons are photons and as bright as the sun would include as hot as the sun.

      Maybe it won't be as bad for people who are in the winter hemisphere. Or not. Geez. No part of the planet would be unaffected.

      Those were from page 1 of the forum thread. Not exactly a bastion of critical thinking.

      • by nomadic ( 141991 )
        It's an astronomical mistake on a forum I've never heard of, unconnected to any sort of conspiracy or doomsday theory. Why does it even need to be publicly debunked to this extent? It kind of reminds me of that time James Randi went all ballistic over some obscure brands of speaker cables.
        • I see your point, but regardless of the source or relevance, it's never a bad practice to debunk faulty logic or unsubstantiated claims when you see them. It's good for people to view claims with a certain level of cynicism and requiring evidence.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by John Hasler ( 414242 )

          > Why does it even need to be publicly debunked to this extent?

          I got the impression that "Bad Astronomer" had been receiving numerous emails about it.

    • Somehow I'm reminded of Glen Beck asking people to deny things everybody (including, apparently, Glen Beck) knows are either outright false or huge distortions of the truth.

  • Fifth, if we can see it, it has exploded, already.

  • by mmcxii ( 1707574 ) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @07:41PM (#32425754)
    When I Googled "I was talking to my son last week (he works on Mauna Kea), and he mentioned some new observations" to see how far this had spread it came up with a glorious 5 hits. That's spreading like wildfire?
  • Nice try (Score:5, Funny)

    by davidbrit2 ( 775091 ) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @07:46PM (#32425788) Homepage

    ...Betelgeuse is about to explode in a supernova. This rumor is almost certainly not true. First, it's posted on a doomsday forum. Second, it's three times removed...

    Nice try, but I'm not falling for that one.

  • Short Story (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lymond01 ( 314120 ) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @08:05PM (#32425954)

    Can't remember the author, but it goes like this:

    Amateur astronomers are out watching the sky for the rumored light from a star that had gone supernova thousands of years before. The supernova was predicted by astronomers as early as the middle ages. It was supposedly going to be very bright. Well, the sun rises early...or at least some brightly shining object. But one of the people corrects the questioner, stating that it is the hour of the moon's rising and it must be reflecting the light from the new star. Someone suggests that it seemed to be getting rather warm.

    Short of it is, this exploding star's light was several times more intense than even our Sun. In the short term it created massive weather effects -- tornados, typhoons, etc. But the air temperature in the first day of its arrival soared to over 200 degrees F - the oceans began to boil, it was unbearable to be outside. The people who survived until the first night -- when the air temperature dropped to somewhere over 130 F -- began pondering what life forms would carry on after this, because it wouldn't be humans.

    There was a similar something in the news last year -- light from an ancient supernova finally reaching Earth and it made me think of this story then too. Not sure what happened to that one.

  • Not very splundig at all.

  • by AbRASiON ( 589899 ) * on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @08:12PM (#32426022) Journal

    The rumour was it will occur in the next few weeks, similar to SN 1054 []

    [quote]SN 1054 (Crab Supernova) was a supernova that was widely seen on Earth in the year 1054. It was recorded by Chinese, Japanese, Native Americans, and Persian/Arab astronomers as being bright enough to see in daylight for 23 days and was visible in the night sky for 653 days.[1][2][3] The progenitor star was located in the Milky Way galaxy at a distance of 6,300 light years and exploded as a core-collapse supernova.[/quote]

  • Why is it? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JoeGee ( 85189 ) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @08:21PM (#32426074)
    People will take a phenomenon verified by hundreds of scientists in dozens of studies, global warming, and dismiss it because they got stuck in a snow drift. Then they'll turn around and forward an email that cites a brother's wife's uncle's cousin as breathless proof of impending calamity? I know the answer -- people are stupid. The question is purely rhetorical. :)
  • We've know for ages that Betelgeuse was about to go supernova. Of course, that astronomy talk meaning "probably within a few centuries or so". I didn't even see anything in the article that implied that this was unexpected. It's true that the author personally projected all sorts of disasters, but he didn't even claim to be an astronomer.

    So this is a "Yawn" story, not even worth a disclaimer.

  • by Joe The Dragon ( 967727 ) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @08:30PM (#32426128)

    The real doomsday sign is the cubs wining it all!

Matter cannot be created or destroyed, nor can it be returned without a receipt.