Betelgeuse, the giant star about 1,400 times the size of our Sun situated ‘just’ 650 light years from Earth, is ordinarily one of the most easily-observable stars in the night sky, and can normally be spotted even without a telescope with the naked eye. But now it’s acting weird.
Astronomers at the European South Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Cerro Paranal, northwestern Chile have confirmed scientists’ recent concerns that Betelgeuse, the Orion constellation red supergiant known for its varying visibility from Earth-based telescopes, is continuing to get dimmer and dimmer.
According to the latest observations, the star recently surpassed an apparent magnitude of 1.56 (where a value of 0.0 is 100% brightness relative to the reference star Vega) and is continuing to fade, with its brightness said to be “unprecedentedly” low following decades of observations.
Comparison images released by the Observatory show a major dimming taking place between January and December 2019, to the point where the star appears bent out of shape, from a bright, spherical orange ball with an orangish-brown halo to a lopsided egg-shaped oval, with the rest or the star shown with a much darker shade of orange.
According to Betelgeuse Status, a Twitter account providing regular tweets on the star’s condition, the red supergiant is now at just 38 percent of its usual brightness.