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Rumor of Betelgeuse's Death Greatly Exaggerated

kdawson posted more than 3 years ago | from the holding-out-for-twenty-twelve dept.

Space 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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356 comments

Of course it is. (5, Insightful)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 3 years ago | (#32424996)

Betelgeuse. Betelgeuse. Betelgeuse.

There he is right there.

Re:Of course it is. (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425306)

Doesn't Betelgeuse rhyme with edelweise (instead of being pronounced beetle-juice)? There's a song in there somewhere ...

Re:Of course it is. (1)

mick232 (1610795) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425598)

No it doesn't. "edelweiss" is pronounced like "adle-wise".

Re:Of course it is. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32425652)

Edelweiss is actually pronounced "Aydel-vice"

Re:Of course it is. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32425678)

Sie gefailen Deutsch, Arschmutze.

Betelgeuse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32425728)

fluctuates in brightness. If it really isn't round at this point in time the news should have at least made it onto UniverseToday.com. Could just be gravitational lensing or a shy star peeking out from behind Betelgeuse, or one too many beers.

Ya (1, Funny)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425018)

Yeah, but if you say it three times, you'll end up being forceably married to some animated corpse by a gnome-like monster ala Communion.

Who cares? (4, Insightful)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#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...

Re:Who cares? (-1, Offtopic)

El Lobo (994537) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425036)

No. If you SEE it going supernova tomorrow, then it already "happened" millions of years ago, so you will feel the effects directly (if any).

Re:Who cares? (4, Informative)

mog007 (677810) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425074)

Betelgeuse isn't millions of light-years away from Earth. It's in our Galaxy, about 600 light years away.

Re:Who cares? (1)

mmcxii (1707574) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425080)

No. If you SEE it going supernova tomorrow, then it already "happened" millions of years ago

Betelgeuse is only about 650 light years away. The milky way is only about 100,000 light years across.

Re:Who cares? (1)

djdanlib (732853) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425102)

Betelgeuse is, according to Wikipedia, 640 LY from Earth. Therefore it will take light 640 years to travel to Earth from Betelgeuse.

Re:Who cares? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32425166)

640 is the distance limit anyway. After all, why would light need to travel further than 640 LY?

Re:Who cares? (1)

AmigaMMC (1103025) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425520)

Betelgeuse is, according to Wikipedia, 640 LY from Earth. Therefore it will take light 640 years to travel to Earth from Betelgeuse.

Not if you travel at Warp 9

Re:Who cares? (4, Informative)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425118)

A supernova can only effect us if it is within 25 light years of us. Betelgeuse is much farther away than that; new estimates say 640 light years. At any rate, it is way beyond the point at which I give a flying fuck because it doesn't effect me one whit. However, it may be really upsetting to Zaphod Beeblebrox [wikipedia.org]!

Re:Who cares? (1)

Minion of Eris (1574569) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425328)

unless it sends out a Gama ray burst as an effect of magnetic constriction. As I understand it, tyhat would produce a beam of extremely nasty crap, directional, and that could reach well beyond a 25YL limit.

Re:Who cares? (1)

nofx_3 (40519) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425688)

TFA clearly states it's not the right type of star to cause gamma rays upon explosion, so unless either our observations or our understanding are seriously flawed that should not be an issue.

Re:Who cares? (1)

Peach Rings (1782482) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425382)

25 light years is a long way. Even if the explosion propagated at 0.1 c it would take 250 years for the plasma to engulf us. Are you sure that's the destruction zone?

Re:Who cares? (1)

ImprovOmega (744717) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425782)

That's the current estimate, yes [wikipedia.org] (ozone layer destruction from supernova within 26 LY).

Also, supernovae output a lot of energy [gsu.edu] (equivalent to the lifetime energy output of our sun over 10 billion years in one massive explosion).

Re:Who cares? (4, Insightful)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425400)

it is way beyond the point at which I give a flying fuck

The reason you give a flying fuck is that an event like this (a supernova the brightness of the full moon lasting for weeks or months) will bring out all of people's craziest fears. For some span of time, society will operate in a significantly less rational way. So you want to do your best to figure out two things: how long will this period of irrational behaviour last, and will that irrational behaviour manifest in ways that affect me?

Re:Who cares? (1)

AmigaMMC (1103025) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425560)

For some span of time, society will operate in a significantly less rational way.

Yeah, for about a week and then it would be business as usual. People have such a short memory or they wouldn't vote the same politicians over and over. Top it with the fact that slashdotters already operate in a significantly less rational way and the world hasn't fallen (neither has Slashdot)

Re:Who cares? (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425596)

What craziest fears? Will be more light in the night, not less, and fear usually comes from darkness. Of course, people could fear that that light will activate werewolves every night instead of every 28 days, and vampires and zombies... well, will be unrelated. What other fears concided in history with supernovas? People that will claim to be son of god or the end of the world?

Re:Who cares? (2, Interesting)

sconeu (64226) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425692)

I wonder if this supernova triggers the Great Collapsing Hrung Disaster?

Re:Who cares? (2, Funny)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425752)

it is way beyond the point at which I give a flying fuck because it doesn't effect me one whit. However, it may be really upsetting to Zaphod Beeblebrox

Orion my be bothered by it as well. It is his right shoulder, after all.

Re:Who cares? (4, Informative)

HFXPro (581079) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425054)

No. For you it occurs tomorrow. Relativity is awesome.

Re:Who cares? (3, Funny)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425326)

meh. Potato, potawto, it's all relative.

Re:Who cares? (1)

Stupid McStupidson (1660141) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425414)

Nobody says potawto.

Re:Who cares? (1, Insightful)

nextekcarl (1402899) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425490)

You just did. And so did the parent poster. But I suppose you might both be nobodies, so maybe you're right?

Nothing new under the Betelgeuse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32425760)

Apocalypse cults, 2012 cults, doomsday cults, radical religious splinter groups, radical religions. These are all just frightened people who think their world is ending. They're all just Ghost Shirt movements.

Re:Who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32425746)

potwato?

Re:Who cares? (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425828)

I'm wondering if a full quantum theory of everything will give us an absolute time. I highly doubt it, but it's interesting thinking about.

Re:Who cares? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425096)

At least we would get a nice neutrino flux for our detectors to play with.

Re:Who cares? (1)

zero.kalvin (1231372) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425430)

I don't think any neutrino detector can detect them. Not even IceCube.

Re:Who cares? (2, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425456)

Neutrinos were detected along with photons from the 1987 supernova. I expected that this would be the same, except closer and brighter.

Re:Who cares? (4, Interesting)

volsung (378) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425676)

Super-Kamiokande would light up like Christmas from a supernova only 600 light years from Earth. (Hopefully they still have a trigger configured to save such data, despite being used now as a target for the T2K experiment.) Super-K is 10x larger than Kamiokande-II and Kamiokande-II was able to detect 11 events from a supernova that was 250x further away than Betelgeuse. Granted, not all supernova have the same intensity, but still, I think we'd have a pretty good view from here.

I care... (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425196)

I damn hope it will go off in my lifetime (yes, yes - as in "the light from the event which sort of already happened will get here during..."). It will be quite a sight.

Re:Who cares? (3, Insightful)

AmigaMMC (1103025) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425514)

Seriously... "about to" in astronomical terms could be a million years from now. By that reasoning I could say that a lot of stars in the universe are about to go Supernova. Same as saying "Yellowstone is about to erupt."

Move on, slashdotters, once again there's nothing to see...

Seriously? (5, Insightful)

PingXao (153057) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425026)

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

Re:Seriously? (5, Funny)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425042)

Sure, but of all the places to go for bad rumors and conspiracy theories, slashdot is my favorite!

Re:Seriously? (4, Funny)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425106)

Yeah, and Slashdot is also a site that covers this kind of thing.

Plus it beats yet another "Something has tenuous link with iPad"/"Someone wrote hype piece about iPad"/"iPadipadipadipadipad!" story.

Re:Seriously? (2, Funny)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425572)

You're all going to be pissed, I saw a picture of a guy who saw an iPad and wrote a 1,000 word essay on the topic and submitted it.

Re:Seriously? (3, Funny)

sconeu (64226) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425664)

I heard a rumor about a slashdotter who saw a picture of a guy who saw an iPad. I submitted it as a story. kdawson promised me it would be front page tomorrow.

Re:Seriously? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32425130)

aww c'mon. Let kdawson have his fud.

Re:Seriously? (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425158)

There are plenty of other places to go for bad rumors and conspiracy theories.

I mean, does this story warrant inclusion on slashdot?

When you read it backwards, you sound ridiculous.

Re:Seriously? (2, Funny)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425200)

Slashdot is news for nerds. News affecting "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" qualifies. I mean, I'm guessing 90% of us have read some or all of the "trilogy." Also guessing that most of us, upon reading the title, thought "What about Ford Prefect now?"

Re:Seriously? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32425284)

Also guessing that most of us, upon reading the title, thought "What about Ford Prefect now?"

No, we didn't. Unlike you, most of us have the ability to distinguish between reality and fiction.

Re:Seriously? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32425646)

Now we finally know what a collapsing hrung is.

Doomsday forum (4, Funny)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#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?

Re:Doomsday forum (2, Informative)

NecroPuppy (222648) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425088)

They have to have some place to share tips on the best places to buy seed vaults, share bunker plans, and learn the proper use of the crowbar vis-a-vis ventilation access.

Re:Doomsday forum (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425152)

They need each other for daily contribution to their confirmation bias. Now they are a group of the wise...

Re:Doomsday forum (3, Funny)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425226)

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?

I take it no one has introduced you to Bash.org?

Re:Doomsday forum (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32425262)

The real doomsayers are hermits living in the woods with towers of rocks poised to block the roads with the flick of a detonator switch.

News? (2, Informative)

voodoosteve (1045878) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425060)

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? (3, Informative)

shadowbearer (554144) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425396)

  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.

SB

Re:News? (2, Informative)

voodoosteve (1045878) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425466)

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.

Re:News? (1)

shadowbearer (554144) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425586)

  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 :-)

SB

Reason four: (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32425086)

Nobody yet knows where the Hrung is, nor why it should choose to collapse on Betelgeuse Seven.

What are the odds? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32425116)

How many stars can we see (with naked eye/scope)? What is a typical lifespan of a star? Have we seen stars go supernova? What are the odds of us seeing one within, say, 50 years? I could google, but I'm not that interested to find out, but if someone has answers ready, I could read them.

Re:What are the odds? (4, Informative)

Max Threshold (540114) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425794)

The average galaxy experiences a supernova roughly once every hundred years. Yes, we have seen some; there was one in a neighboring galaxy in 1987. What's really whack is that there are about 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe. Using the estimate of one supernova per galaxy per century, this works out to like thirty supernova every second! Shit's blowin' up like crazy!

I also heard... (4, Interesting)

Itninja (937614) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425136)

...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.

Ok, now (1)

JamesP (688957) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425168)

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:Ok, now (2, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425232)

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).

in other important astronomy news... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:in other important astronomy news... (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425274)

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... ;)

Of Course! (-1, Redundant)

Bugamn (1769722) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425236)

It can not be dead. It isn't a living being, it was never alive, it can't die!

Re:Of Course! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32425590)

Shut your fucking ass. I'm am so sick of common retards like you coming around here trying to act insightful or cute when you're just a fucking retard. Go back to Digg. You'd get along well with those bitches, you fucking mound of dog shit.

It's OK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32425252)

"about to" in astrophysics is anytime between now and a gazilllion years from now.

Our chances are slim (2, Insightful)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425318)

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:Our chances are slim (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32425470)

I'm going with the Neocons, the Super Bug and the Return of the Old Ones for the trifecta.

The air fore is covering this up and the deep spac (0, Offtopic)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425388)

The air fore is covering this up and the deep space telemetry program are the guys ruining it.

So ... (1)

DrugCheese (266151) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425462)

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?

ugh (4, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425504)

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:ugh (2, Insightful)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425722)

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.

Re:ugh (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425758)

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.

Re:ugh (1)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425866)

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:ugh (2, Interesting)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425884)

> 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.

Re:ugh (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425838)

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.

Trollk0re (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32425538)

Start a holy war are inherently the numbers. The gAY NIGGERS FROM

4th reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32425670)

It's posted on slashdot.

Seriously. Why is this nonsense even worthy of mention here? To make fun of it?

Spreading like wildfire? (4, Informative)

mmcxii (1707574) | more than 3 years ago | (#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 (5, Funny)

davidbrit2 (775091) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425788)

...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.

Unreliable (1)

ngc3242 (1039950) | more than 3 years ago | (#32425848)

The person that wrote that post can't get basic facts about stars right. I wouldn't trust them to interpret anything he or she heard correctly.

From the original article "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." Here's the deal. A given star isn't visible at night to one person and visible during the day to another. Now if a star is visible to people at the same longitude can depend on their latitudes. If the Earth is between Betelgeuse and the Sun, then it's visible at night to everyone who can see it from their latitude. In that case everyone is going to have longer days. It might turn out to not be full daylight for 24 hours depending on the angles. We could get brighter days and shorter nights.

My guess is either the person is making it up, or their lack of basic astronomical knowledge led to them misunderstanding something that was being said about when Betelgeuse dies.

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