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Why a Bright Star Went Dim

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Text, News From The Universe. August 20, 2020
 
Why A Bright Star Went Dim
 
Only 725 light-years away, the bright-red super-giant star Betelgeuse is one of the brightest lights in the sky.
 
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Betelgeuse has been observed since ancient times, so modern astronomers knew its dramatic, temporary dimming in 2019 was very unusual.
 
In October 2019, the star dimmed dramatically and continued getting fainter.

By mid-February 2020, the change was visible to the naked eye.
 
Astronomers were already using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to observe the star and so were able to construct a timeline of events.
 
Image, the occluded orb of Betelgeuse. Text, December 2019
 
Text, Hubble data suggests Betelgeuse ejected a huge amount of super-hot plasma, which cooled and formed a dust cloud that blocked its starlight from our view.
 
Is aging Betelgeuse preparing for a self-destructive supernova?
 
Chances of a supernova soon are small, but the warning signs are unknown, so astronomers continue to keep telescopes trained on Betelgeuse.
 
This news was brought to you in part by the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore MD.