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Hubble Space Telescope

  • The last supernova that was remotely visible by the naked eye was Supernova 1987A. It was an impressive display then. But will we see another supernova again?

    For context, our closest red supergiant star is Betelgeuse. It is currently on the cusp of exploding, as it transforms into a supernova. The star is already spewing gases from its surface as it prepares to ascend into supernova — superheating nearby celestial gas and dust into a spectacular light-show.

    As the star prepares to self-destruct, there’s a nearby wall cloud formation of dust. According to the ESA, it’s technically the edge of a nearby interstellar cloud, being illuminated by Betelgeuse. The two are posed to collide:

    If the bar is a completely separate object, then taking into account the motion of Betelgeuse and its arcs and the separation between them and the bar, the outermost arc will collide with the bar in just 5,000 years, with the red supergiant star itself hitting the bar roughly 12,500 years later.

    This image of Betelgeuse is comprised of bow shock (right) and a wall cloud of dust and debris (left). It will take thousands of years for the two to collide. Photo: ESA
    The first photo of a star other than our sun, taken with the Hubble Space Telescope in 1996. Betelgeuse is a red supergiant in the constellation Orion. This photograph is an ultraviolet image. Pictured on the right is the full constellation Orion, with Betelgeuse marked by the yellow cross. Note just how large the size of the star is compared to the size of Jupiter’s orbit. Enormous.

    Check out more photos of Betelgeuse at WIRED,