edited by Ann Ulrich Miller
© 2012 (all rights reserved)
An article from the February 2012 issue of
THE STAR BEACON.
‘Second sun’ on its way
The following article is from The Telegraph, dated Jan. 22, 2011.
The Earth could find itself with a ‘second sun’ for a period of weeks later this year (2011) when one of the night sky’s most luminous stars explodes, scientists have claimed. The supernova could provide the biggest light show since Earth was formed, and will be so bright that night will become like day for one or two weeks, experts said.
Betelgeuse, which is part of the Orion constellation 640 light-years away from Earth, is a red supergiant, meaning that it is nearing the end of its life and is due to explode.
When it does, it will burn so brightly that the earth will appear to have two suns in the sky, the Daily Mail reported.
What is less certain is when it will explode. Brad Carter, senior lecturer of physics at the University of Southern Queensland in Australia, said the explosion could take place before the end of the year—or indeed at any point over the next million years.
Some sun facts
What is a solar flare?
A solar flare is an intense burst of radiation coming from the release of magnetic energy associated with sunspots. Flares are our solar system’s largest explosive events. They are seen as bright areas on the sun and they can last from minutes to hours. We typically see a solar flare by the photons (or light) it releases, at most every wavelength of the spectrum. The primary ways we monitor flares are in x-rays and optical light. Flares are also sites where particles (electrons, protons, and heavier particles) are accelerated.
What is a coronal mass ejection (CME)?
The outer solar atmosphere, the corona, is structured by strong magnetic fields. Where these fields are closed, often above sunspot groups, the confined solar atmosphere can suddenly and violently release bubbles of gas and magnetic fields called coronal mass ejections. A large CME can contain a billion tons of matter that can be accelerated to several million miles per hour in a spectacular explosion. Solar material streams out through the interplanetary medium, impacting any planet or spacecraft in its path. CMEs are sometimes associated with flares but can occur independently.
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