Betelgeuse Will Dim or Disappear During Asteroid Pass

Comparison of SPHERE images of Betelgeuse taken in January 2019 and December 2019, showing the changes in brightness and shape

In 2019, the one that usually illuminates our winter sky had lost some of its brilliance. Betelgeuse’s brightness had dropped, and astronomers sought to understand why.

At one point, they even considered the possibility that the red supergiant was on the verge of exploding into a supernova. However, that turned out not to be the case. But it’s only a matter of time. Betelgeuse’s fate is sealed. The question remains as to when the explosion will occur. An event scheduled for mid-December might provide some insights for researchers.

An Exceptional Astronomical Event

An asteroid is currently heading directly towards the famous red supergiant star in the Orion constellation. However, it will not collide with Betelgeuse, as the star is approximately 650 light-years away from Earth. The asteroid, known as (319) Leona, is navigating somewhere between Mars and Jupiter, much closer to us.

Astronomers anticipate a rare event: the asteroid passing between Betelgeuse and our planet, with both celestial bodies appearing almost the same size. This occultation is expected to occur on Tuesday, December 12, 2023, visible from Central Asia, Turkey, Greece, Southern Italy, Sardinia, Spain, and Southern Portugal. The event will conclude in Florida, United States.

Asteroid Meets Star to Reveal Some Secrets

Astronomers, including enthusiasts, are prepared to record extensive photometric and spectroscopic data from the event. They aim to gather information about the distribution of convective cells on the star’s surface in visible light. This data, valuable due to the absence of visible light interferometers, will be compared with observations from the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI). Ultimately, this effort may assist astronomers in predicting when Betelgeuse will undergo a supernova explosion.

Featured Image: ESO.