A Story With Legs

Fishnet Stockings, photo by RJ Ferret, courtesy of Wikipedia
Fishnet Stockings, photo by RJ Ferret, courtesy of Wikipedia

Today an interesting story appeared on Huffington Post concerning the possible appearance of a supernova in the sky near the end of 2012. It is even possible that this celestial event might  coincide with the so-called “End of Days”, which is an integral part of the Mayan Calendar. This is the same “End of Days” that inspired the movie “2012” along with countless books and articles concerning the true significance of the approaching date..

According to the article, Betelgeuse (pronounced beetle juice), one of the brightest stars in the sky, is in a state of collapse and could go “supernova” at any time. Supernovas are caused when a star explodes. This is a natural part of the death cycle of stars and results in the formation of a neutron star or a black hole. The last supernova to be observed on the surface of the earth occurred in 1604.

One interesting side note to this story is its source. Much of the information in the article is attributed to Dr. Brad Carter, Senior Lecturer of Physics at the University of Southern Queensland. In a recent article that appeared in News Limited, an Australia news service, Dr. Carter details the effects that a supernova in a nearby star, such as betelgeuse might have on the earth. Currently, this red super-giant is the ninth brightest star in the sky. Along with its twin sister, Rigel It can be found in  the constellation of Orion. Betelgeuse can be seen in the right shoulder of Orion, while Rigel is part of the hunter’s left foot.

The Spotty Surface of Betelgeuse  Credit: Xavier Haubois (Observatoire de Paris) et al.
The Spotty Surface of Betelgeuse Credit: Xavier Haubois (Observatoire de Paris) et al.

Dr. Brad Carter is a Senior Lecturer of Physics at the University of Southern Queensland, Australia and he has acquired a minor presence in the media, almost always in conjunction with betelgeuse and the possibility that it might become the next supernova. Reference to the Australian astronomer has appeared in print dating at least as far back as  2004. So as far as the disintegration of betelgeuse goes, the fact that this event will occur is a generally known fact. The only question that remains is when it will happen and how bright will the explosion be as seen from the surface of earth.

And by the way for those, who are wondering where the term Betelgeuse came from, the word is believed to be of Arabic orign. According to the University of Illinois Department of Astronomy, the word is a “corruption of the Arabic ‘yad al jauza,’ which means the ‘hand of al-jauza,’ al-jauza the ancient Arabs’ ‘Central One,’ a mysterious woman”.

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