Scientists have just snapped the most detailed image ever of a star other than our Sun
This is the most detailed image of a star that’s not the sun.
One of the most fascinating images of a star other than our sun has recently been released by an international group of astronomers—led by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies—who managed to take an incredible image of Betelgeuse.
ALMA (ESO / NAOJ / NRAO) / E. O’Gorman / P. Kervella
The image is one of the best at ratio wavelengths and was made possible thanks to the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array.
The result? The most detailed, high-resolution image ever taken of the surface of a star that’s not our sun. It is also the first image of a stellar surface ‘photographed’ by ALMA.
Betelgeuse is located in the constellation Orion. It is the ninth-brightest star in the night sky and second-brightest in the constellation of Orion. It’s one of the largest and most luminous stars visible to the naked eye.
The star located in the constellation of Orion is massive, it’s as big as 1,400 Suns, but it only weighs 11 times our sun.
If Betelgeuse were at the center of the Solar System, its surface would extend past the asteroid belt, wholly engulfing the orbits of Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars.
Astronomers believe that Betelgeuse is a star at the end of its life and will go supernova in the near future.
In the night sky, Betelgeuse is easy to spot with the naked eye owing to its distinctive orange-red color.
“Located about 650 light-years away, Betelgeuse is certainly not the closest star to our solar system, but its sheer size makes it an ideal target to image directly with ALMA,” Dr. Pierre Kervella, an astronomer at the Paris Observatory and a member of the team, said in a press release.
“When we look at the night sky with our naked eyes, we see bright stars everywhere, but because they are so small, even the most powerful telescopes in the world struggle to image their surfaces. Our results show ALMA has the capability to image the surfaces of the largest stars in detail.”
Using the VISIR instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), astronomers have imaged a complex and bright nebula around the supergiant star Betelgeuse in greater detail than ever before. This structure, which resembles flames emanating from the star, is formed as the behemoth sheds its material into space.
Image Credit: ESO
The image, as well as a new study, were published in the Journal Astronomy & Astrophysics and available online, opening a new area of study for ALMA.
In the past, astronomers used ALMA to study and snap images of galaxies, comets and protoplanetary this, but this is the first time ever that experts used it to make observations of a star’s surface.
“ALMA now provides us with the capabilities to image surface features on nearby stars while also directly measuring the temperature of these features,” said team lead Dr. Eamon O’Gorman, an astronomer at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.
“We have known for decades that the visible surface of Betelgeuse is not uniform, but ALMA has now shown in beautiful detail that the temperature in its inner atmosphere is also not uniform. It looks like these temperature fluctuations could be caused by magnetic fields, similar to what we see on the sun, our nearest star.”
Betelgeuse is a true ‘cosmic monster’ but is only around 8 million years old. Our sun in comparison is around 4.5 billion years old. But despite the relatively ‘young age’ of Betelgeuse, astronomers believe it will go supernova in the near future, an explosion that would be visible from Earth in broad daylight.