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Oddly dimming star isn’t about to explode after all

Composite Image by ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgment: Davide De Martin
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This image of Betelgeuse, one of the brightest stars in the sky, is a color composite made from exposures taken as part of the Digitized Sky Survey 2.

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Rumors of Betelgeuse’s impending death have been greatly exaggerated. The red supergiant star appears to be in no danger of imminently exploding, even though a recent, dramatic dip in brightness hinted that it could be on its last legs. The latest observations reveal instead that the star is starting to regain its former light.

“Betelgeuse has definitely stopped dimming and has started to slowly brighten,” a team reported on February 22 in the Astronomer’s Telegram. “Observations of all kinds continue to be needed to understand the nature of this unprecedented dimming episode and what this surprising star will do next.”

With Betelgeuse’s light on the rise, astronomers are now hoping to figure out what caused such a precipitous drop in brightness at the end of 2019—while simultaneously dealing with the disappointment of not witnessing a nearby supernova.

“I would love to say it’s going to go supernova,” says Andrea Dupree of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “We don’t have much information at all about what happens right before, the night before, the week before, or a month before a supernova.”...

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