Researchers found that the red giant star Betelgeuse, visible in the Orion constellation, is smaller and closer than researchers commonly thought.
After the Hubble Space Telescope helped overcome why it appeared a little dimmer than usual, the superstar is now exposing more mysteries.
"The actual physical size of Betelgeuse has been a bit of a mystery - earlier studies suggested it could be bigger than the orbit of Jupiter," says astronomer László Molnár from the Konkoly Observatory in Hungary.
"Our results say Betelgeuse only extends out to two-thirds of that, with a radius 750 times the radius of the Sun."
Experts published the recent discovery in The Astrophysical Journal.
While the star has been well studied, superstar Betelgeuse made it more challenging for experts to detect and research using telescopes and pin down its size and distance.
The star was greater than Jupiter's orbit in previous observations, but recent research findings have shown that Betelgeuse is now around two-thirds of that distance. This makes the red giant 750 times our sun's radius.
Molnár said that the scale helped the researchers determine its distance from Earth 530 light-years distant, 25 percent closer than scientists previously believed.
The researchers predicted that there is already enough space between the star and Earth to shield our world from massive impacts until the star finally bursts.
Then when would Betelgeuse get a supernova experience? According to the experts, it could not occur for another 100,000 years.
Since late 2019, the bright star has undergone two major brightness decreases, leading some observers to conclude that the red giant star was coming to an end and might burst.
According to the researchers, such dimming events happened due to dust particles and star pulsations. They were able to model the star's pulsing and noticed that they were essentially shock waves that produced the pulsations, or sound waves.
What Hubble Saw
The star has long intrigued astronomers. The researchers expect it to go through a dimming and brightening period every 420 days since they've seen it so often.
Meridith Joyce, lead study author and postdoctoral fellow at The Australian National University, said Betelgeuse is burning helium in its core. The superstar's actions implied it's almost bursting nowhere.
According to Joyce, a supernova eruption is always "a really big deal." Since this giant star is Earth's nearest contender, it may give the experts a rare chance to research what occurs to stars like this before they erupt.
The lead study author attributed the second smaller event to the pulsations of the star.
But in the fall of 2019, Betelgeuse captured astronomers' interest worldwide when it started to dim suddenly and began to disappear through February. But then, two-thirds of its brightness dipped and the transition was apparent to the naked eye.
It was the smallest star since its observations started 150 years earlier.
Astronomers figured it might mean that Betelgeuse might be about to burst and begin studying the star in a supernova. By April, it was back to its usual light. What happened, then?
Since January 2019, the Hubble Space Telescope studied Betelgeuse in ultraviolet light, so that it was able to provide evidence for the time line of the star leading up to its dimming occurrence.
Hubble clocked the substance traveling at 200,000 miles per hour. In December, observations provided by ground-based telescopes showed that the star suffered a specific drop in brightness localized in its southern hemisphere.
The superheated plasma, like hot bubbles growing in boiling water - except hundreds of times the size of our planet, was expelled from the star into a broad convection cell.
The material cooled as the star expelled this vast volume of hot material made of gases when it entered the star's outer layers and created a dust cloud that obscured starlight from around a quarter of the star's surface.