Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Possibility of Betelgeuse exploding in near future

  1. Jul 20, 2003 #1


    User Avatar
    Gold Member


    If you don't already know me, I am Simfishy, and am new to the forum. I am only 14 year old, and an amateur in the field of Science; so I don't know very much about many of the more complex fields. However, I will try to contribute to the forum with what I know, and if I am doing something that you don't all like, then feeel free to send me a private message! I do have experience forumming n other forums (especially HeavenGames), so my behavior isn't too eccentric, but might not necessarily be appropriate enough yet for this forum. Are there any newbie guidelines that many newbies overlook that I should pay meticulous attention to?

    By the way, I love to ask questions; so please be prepared to answer them for me! Thanks! I'll try to be as much of a amicable newbie as possible! :)

    Now, to my question.. What do you think is the probability of Betelgeuse exploding in a supernovae in the near future? While Betelgeuse isn't an extreme Cepheid variable yet, its magnitude does vary a bit, and it's only going to get more volatile with time. Additionally, if it does explode in a supernovae, then what do you think the effects are going to be for us? It is only 500 light years away, but violent supernovae explosions can release a burst of radiation that could still be potentially dangerous to life.

    Also, how does Betelgeuse compare in mass to other red supergiants, like Antares or Eta Carinae? Would an supernovae of Betelgeuse pale in comparision to the supernovae of other red supergiants; or would it be more magnificent? I don't think it would be as magnificent as the supernovae observed in 1987 would be, but Betelgeuse's proximity does give me the shivers. If Betelgeuse exploded, do you think that the core would become a neutron star?


    Another question: Are blue, yellow, and white supergiants nearing the end of their lives, or are they young stars that are eventually going to turn into red supergiants like Betelgeuse as they run out of fuel in their cores? They're brighter than many main sequence stars, but also cooler. FOr instance, would do you think would be the fates of stars like Rigel, Polaris, etc?


    Now, the last question...

    I do know that stars like the Sun or Alpha Centauri A will turn into red giants when they're old like Capella, but not necessarily supergiants like Antares. However, what would be the fate of white stars more massive than the sun in the main sequence, like Sirius, Mizar, or Vega? Would they become supergiants, or would they just be giants more massive than the sun? Would only the very bright main sequence stars like Spica, Mintaka, Alnilam, and Alnitak became supergiants?

    Your responses will be greatly appreciated!

  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 20, 2003 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I'll try to answer some of your questions.
    The difference between a giant and super giant is mass, According to one source, the dividing line is around 3 solar masses.

    Betelgeuse and Antares are both about 15 solar masses, while Eta Carinae runs about 150 solar masses.

    Vega, at about 3 solar masses sits right a the edge of ever becoming a super-giant, while Sirius and Mizar, at 2.5 Sm fall below the line and will only form giants.

    The blue, white and yellow super-giants are young (and shortlived) stars.
  4. Jul 20, 2003 #3
    Good question Simfishy.

    It's now beleived, after sn1987a, that red supergiants go into hotter "burning" phases before they go supernova. The timeline I've seen on Betelgeuse is " within the next 100,000 years". I've done some back of the envelope calculations on Betelgeuse based on sn1987a data and it would be spectacular but probably not fatal to life on Earth.
  5. Jul 21, 2003 #4


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Welcome aboard, Simfishy! :smile:

    Here are the general guidelines...
    https://www.physicsforums.com/misc/guidelines.html [Broken]
    Nothing specific for newbies. Judging from this one post, I think you'll do just fine. :smile:

    Here's what astronomer Sten Odenwald (runs a good FAQ website) says...

    At 15 solar masses, it seems like Betelgeuse could either form a neutron star or a black hole.

    Hang on...more to come!
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  6. Jul 22, 2003 #5


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Thanks all! :) Additionally, I have yet another question to ponder...

    When a star like Rigel becomes older, will it gradually become cooler, or will it suddenly become a red supergiant? (For instance, Polaris is a yellow supergiant, and is it approximately half-way in the evolutionary lifespan between Rigel and Betelgeuse?
  7. Jan 19, 2011 #6
    U at such a young age have a great interest and potential towards the subject.By the way,Betelgeuse is a star which's the size of a football compared to sun which can be approximated to the size of an ant.hence considering the distance parameter! the star would've already exploded but we may receive the information about it's explosion in the mere future. No one can predict the star's behavior at present instant.
    Now coming to the explosion part.....Betelgeuse's explosion may cause blockage of the sun's light .....this massive explosion of the star causes sudden burst of radiation which acts as a temporary sun for us on earth.!!! this supernova can last for several weeks.
    i hope i've answered your question
    your previous answer is greatly appreciated ....well done in such a young age
    -Badri narayan
  8. Jan 19, 2011 #7
    Antreas is a star that is approximately 1.5times the size of betelgeuse...these stars can not be compared with the sun as our sun is just in its main sequence stage while antreas n betelgeuse are super giants.....
    the explosion of Betelgeuse can be comparable to other super giants....it may not only be red super giants.its obvious that such huge stars die forming neutron stars.....n i m sorry i too do not know the answer to your last question.
    -Badri narayan
  9. Jan 19, 2011 #8
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  10. Jan 20, 2011 #9

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2017 Award

    This thread is 7.5 years old.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook