News Sci/Tech Boiling Surface of Betelgeuse: A Cosmic Illusion

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The Boiling Surface of Betelgeuse: A Cosmic Illusion

By Robert Lea | Published on 12 March 2024

Stars are usually distant, twinkling points in the night sky. But Betelgeuse, a red supergiant located in the constellation Orion, defies this norm. With a diameter over 620 million miles (1 billion kilometers), Betelgeuse is more than 1,000 times larger than our sun, making it one of the largest stars in the known universe.

Spinning Faster Than Expected?

Recent observations have left astronomers scratching their heads. Betelgeuse appears to be rotating at an astonishing rate, much faster than a star of its size should. But what if this rapid spin is merely an illusion?

Ph.D. student Jing-Ze Ma and colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics propose an intriguing explanation. They believe that Betelgeuse's violently boiling surface might be deceiving our telescopes. The bubbling motions on the star's surface, akin to a cosmic cauldron, could be mistaken for rotation.

Imagine standing on a spaceship near Betelgeuse, watching its surface churn and bubble. It would seem as though the star were spinning wildly. Yet, in reality, it's a tempestuous dance of convection currents, not rotation.

Implications and Excitement

For astronomers, this revelation is both perplexing and exhilarating. Betelgeuse's surface dynamics are so pronounced that we can witness them directly through our telescopes. It's like peeking into a celestial cauldron, where boiling gases surge and collide.

Moreover, Betelgeuse's recent dimming episodes have added to its mystique. Could these fluctuations also be linked to its tumultuous surface activity?


So, the next time you gaze at Betelgeuse, remember that appearances can be deceiving. This colossal star, once thought to be a mere point of light, now reveals its cosmic drama. As we continue to study Betelgeuse, we eagerly await more surprises from this enigmatic giant.

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