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Red giant star Betelgeuse

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

Source: TH

 Context: Recent research on the massive red giant star Betelgeuse suggests that it is in its late carbon-burning stage (near the end of its life) and may explode as a supernova within a few decades.


Life Cycle of a Star:

A star is born from a dense cloud of gas and dust called a nebula. Through the process of nuclear fusion, it converts hydrogen into helium, releasing energy and emitting light. As the star exhausts its hydrogen fuel, it expands and becomes a red giant. In this phase, it fuses helium into heavier elements like carbon and oxygen.

 While smaller stars, like our Sun, eventually shed their outer layers and form a white dwarf. Larger stars undergo a supernova explosion, where their cores collapse and release an immense amount of energy. This explosion disperses heavy elements into space and may result in the formation of a neutron star or a black hole.


What is a red giant star?

A red giant star is a large, ageing star that has expanded and cooled down, causing it to appear red in colour. It occurs in the later stages of a star’s life cycle when it exhausts its hydrogen fuel and starts burning heavier elements.


About Betelgeuse

It is a red giant star located in the constellation Orion. It is one of the largest and brightest stars visible to the naked eye.


How have astronomers found the stage of Betelgeuse:

Astronomers have suggested the stage of the red giant star Betelgeuse by studying its pulsations. Betelgeuse undergoes periodic expansion and contraction (similar to a boiling pot releasing steam), causing variations in its brightness. By analysing these pulsations, researchers can infer the star’s current state.