Physics by way of the cable company

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From a whipping-up-anxiety article in Time magazine titled “Will the Earth Have Two Suns by 2012?

Regarding Betelgeuse, a rapidly collapsing red super-giant star:


“It goes bang, it explodes, it lights up,” Carter said. “We’ll have incredible brightness for a brief period of time…and then over the coming months it begins to fade and then eventually it will be very hard to see at all.”

And while the celestial event could take place before the end of 2012, it may not occur for a million years.


Emphasis added by me.

Sooo, it could happen in a year or a million years. Trifle hard to plan provisions for that million year stretch. What’s the half-life on my water container?

It’s only January of 2011 and I’m seriously DONE with the doomsday predictions.

Meanwhile, a star that explodes and lights up the Earth for a few weeks then fades away? That’s pretty damn cool. I kind of hope it happens by 2012.



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  • Anji

    2012, but by whose calender?

    Will we need special cardboard glasses like for an eclipse?

  • Karen Fayeth

    Anji – Ooh! Good questions!

  • Ephraim F. Moya

    Karen,

    If a supernova happens in the milky way it will FILL the galaxy with gamma waves (not to mention other radiation).

    So, pray that it happens a million years from now. On every calender.

    Regards,
    EFM

  • Karen Fayeth

    Ephraim – Not quite:

    “…the implosion will shower the earth with tiny particles called neutrinos that are absolutely harmless. “

  • Anji

    Reading what Ephraim wrote, my cardboard glasses are not going to be much use…

  • Ephraim F. Moya

    Karen,

    Read this specially the sections ‘impact on earth’ and ‘Milky Way candidates’.

    Betelgeuse is ‘ONLY’ 600 light years away.

    Regards,
    EFM

    Its like global warming – by-n-by someday we’ll all die.

  • Karen Fayeth

    Ephraim – This article tells us that due to the size, Betelgeuse will produce a Type II supernova.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betelgeuse

    So then this article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Type_II_supernova

    Tells us that a type II produces a more dense center, which:

    “As the core’s density increases, it becomes energetically favorable for electrons and protons to merge (via inverse beta decay), producing neutrons and elementary particles called neutrinos. Because neutrinos rarely interact with normal matter they can escape from the core, carrying away energy and further accelerating the collapse, which proceeds over a timescale of milliseconds.”

    I appreciate that in many cases, this article explains that not everything that goes down with a type II supernova is well understood, but I don’t think it’s the stuff of doomsaying.

  • Karen Fayeth

    In addition:

    http://scienceray.com/astronomy/apocalypse-soon-supernova-betelgeuse-is-coming/

    “Most scientists believe the star is far enough away from Earth that the explosion blast and various particle rays emitted will not affect us drastically (if at all).”

    and

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2010/06/01/is-betelgeuse-about-to-blow/
    (the author is an astronomer)

    “Having said all that, I’ll note that someday, Betelgeuse will explode. That’s for certain! But it’s also way too far away to hurt us. A supernova has to be no farther than about 25 light years away to be able to fry us with light or anything else, and Betelgeuse is 25 times that distance (which means its power to hurt us is weakened by over 600x). It’s the wrong kind of star to explode as a gamma-ray burst, so I’m not worried about that either.”

  • Ephraim F. Moya

    Karen,

    So why did Time publish that article?

    :-)
    Regards,
    EFM

  • Karen Fayeth

    Ephraim – To get people like you and me all whipped up about the end of the world. Looks like it’s working, too.

    Tragedy and anxiety sell magazines.

    “Everything is going to be ok” does not.

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