The death of Betelgeuse and the obsession with the end of the world in 2012

Betelgeuse in the Orion constellation
Betelgeuse in the Orion constellation

Last week, an Australian site reported statements from Dr. Brad Carter, a professor of physics at the University of Southern Queensland, who talked about the approaching death of the star Betelgeuse, which will become a supernova and in his opinion for a few weeks will shine like a second sun.

Actually the only statement that can be disputed is the one concerning the brightness of this supernova, according to many estimated in excess, in the article there aren’t any more news, only already well known information.

We are however approaching the moment that, according to obscure calculations based on ancient Mayan prophecies, would see the end of the world so it’s suggested that Betelgeuse could explode just by that date. The fact that the name of this star is associated with the devil only helps to strengthen this sinister association with the end of the world.

Betelgeuse (indicated by the pink arrow in the picture) is a red supergiant with a mass about 18 times the Sun’s which is part of the Orion constellation (picture ©Zwergelstern). Its distance from Earth is about 600 light years. This is a variable star as its outer layer is unstable and goes through phases of expansion and contraction.

Betelgeuse’s behavior shows us that this star is approaching the time when it will become a supernova however it’s impossible to reasonably assume if that’s happening next year, the next millennium or who knows when. All the speculations about the connection with the alleged Mayan prophecies are totally far-fetched starting with the ones concerning the possible damage that a supernova so far from the Earth could cause.

Knowing science requires commitment and perseverance to keep updated, believing in theories built on little facts and a lot of speculations that in return make their followers feel smart is easier.

In recent years theories on the possible end of the world at the end of 2012 have acquired a growing fame so it became almost inevitable that every catastrophe were associated with those speculations. Now it’s death of Betelgeuse time and even serious newspapers reported this pseudo-news.

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Actually considering the amount of suckers around I’m surprised that there aren’t more potential disasters associated with the 2012. For example it’s been a while since some geologists claimed that the next eruption of Yellowstone supervolcano is overdue. Considering that much of North America would be devastated and there would be catastrophic consequences on a global level it’s strange that it’s not considered one of the possible causes of the end of the world.

Finally, for all we know Betelgeuse could have become a supernova a few centuries ago but the electromagnetic radiations it emitted haven’t reached the Earth yet. In any case we’ll wait for this supernova and in the meantime let’s try to enjoy 2012, 2013 and all following years. 😉

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