|The sharpest image ever of Betelgeuse shows a mammoth star that is slowly evaporating.
Betelgeuse (sounds a lot like "beetle juice"), also known as
Alpha Orionis, is one of the
largest and brightest stars known.
The star is a familiar orange fixture
easily visible to the unaided eye
toward the constellation of
The above recent image from the
Very Large Telescope in
resolves not only the face of Betelgeuse, but a large and previously
unknown plume of surrounding gas.
This plume gives fresh indications of how the
massive star is shedding mass as it nears the end of its life.
Conversely, a series of previous observations indicate that the surface of Betelgeuse has noticeably shrunk, on the average, over the past decade.
If Betelgeuse, a red
about 640 light years distant, were placed at the center of our Solar System, the plume would extend past the orbit of Jupiter.
is known to change its
brightness irregularly, future observations may determine if changes its appearance irregularly as well.
Betelgeuse is a candidate to undergo a
explosion almost anytime in the next few thousand years.