Mysterious dimming of supergiant star Betelgeuse captured by astronomers

ASTRONOMERS have observed a massive, distant star fade in brightness only for it to reignite over a year later.

"Betelgeuse" is a mysterious star best known for its size, brightness and position in the constellation Orion.

Betelgeuse has a history of erratic behavior that went unexplained for a time.

During a five-month stretch from 2019 to 2020, the supergiant star lost about two thirds of its luminosity – this cosmic event was dubbed the "Great Dimming".

Researchers determined that an outburst of gases was emitted from the star, which clouded observations of Betelgeuse at a time it was experiencing a natural lull in brightness.

Months later, the star lit up again – some theorize these waves of brightening and darkening could precede a supernova explosion.

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Scientists have been inspired to reimagine deep space imaging by catching glimpses of Betelgeuse with technology that was not initially designed to study distant stars.

A Japanese weather satellite inadvertently snapped images of Betelgeuse during a routine scan of the Earth.

"The Himawari-8 satellite also observes the region of outer space around the edge of the Earth’s disk during every scan," they wrote in a study published in Nature.

"This motivated us to develop a new concept: using meteorological satellites as ‘space telescopes’ for astronomy"

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"Himawari is like a free space telescope!" an astronomer told CNet.

Betelgeuse is one of the largest known stars in the universe – it is about 950 times the size of the Sun in our solar system.

Light takes 725 years to reach Earth from Betelgeuse's position, which would mean our present-day observations really occurred during the 14th century.

On galactic scale, 725 lightyears is actually a close distance – according to Nasa, Betelgeuse is the only other star besides our own Sun to have its surface details observed.

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Himawari-8 is positioned about 22,000 miles away from Earth.

The James Webb Telescope, Nasa's next flagship space telescope, is parked about 1,000,000 miles away from Earth and is expected to be fully operational at the end of June.

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