Beauty and the Betelgeuse beast

BetelgeuseBetelgeuse, a reddish orange gem, is a dry season delight. But the beauty of this glistening ruby, in Orion constellation, masks a beastly reality: Betelgeuse could erupt, at any minute, into a supernova explosion, possibly with grave consequences for Nigeria.
Primitive theology, with its emphasis on the “end-time,” has primed a large portion of the population psychologically—so that any striking celestial occurrence, could set off a cataclysmic upheaval. Mass suicide, is a distinct possibility.
All it would take, is for ill-informed clergy to interpret the apparition as a “supernatural sign”: Unaware that such explosions are part of stellar evolution. Indeed, a NASA astrophysicist calculated that 30 supernova occur somewhere in the observable universe every second!
But while such eruptions are common on the grand scale, they are very rare in any one of the estimated 100 billion star-systems (galaxies) in the known cosmos—averaging only one supernova per galaxy, per century.
According to a report in Sky and Telescope magazine (04/01/06), our own star-system is slightly above the cosmic average, with one to three supernovae occurring in the Milky Way annually.
Astronomers study supernovae, by watching out for them in other galaxies. The last time one occurred in the Milky Way that could be seen with the naked-eye, was 1604. This means, as Mansur Ghani noted in Yale Scientific, “that a supernova is long overdue in our galaxy”.
Supernovae are exceedingly violent events; and Betelgeuse is going to detonate directly over our heads. When it does, astronomers predict, the dying supergiant will match the luminosity of the full Moon at night, and become clearly visible during the day, for several weeks (possibly months).
Astronomers have no way of fixing a date, for this visual extravaganza. That would require detailed knowledge of physical and chemical conditions in the core of the star—which is not accessible, directly. But the time frame most scientists seem comfortable with, is between now and the next 100,000 years.
“Betelgeuse could very well go up tonight,” Michael Faison, director of the Leitner Family Observatory at Yale University (U.S.A.), told Ghani, “but it could also happen any time in the next hundred thousand years.” The U.S. space agency, NASA, takes pretty much the same position.
Betelgeuse is barely 10 million years old, compared with our Sun’s five billion. But the supergiant is roughly 1,000 times bigger and shines 100,000 times more brightly—greedily gulping down its hydrogen fuel.
Due to its rapacious energy consumption, Betelgeuse is running through its evolutionary phases in a mere fraction of the time a smaller star would take: Feasting first on hydrogen, then helium, carbon, neon, oxygen and finally silicon.
It may now be choking on iron, whose nuclei are too tightly bound to fuse and generate the heat that sustains its equilibrium. “Betelgeuse is likely on its way to a spectacular supernova explosion,” NASA surmises. “It has already swelled into a red supergiant and shed a significant fraction of its outer layers”.
Fortunately, the star is more than 600 light years away: Well beyond the “death-beam distance” of 25 to 30 lightyears, within which gamma rays from the explosion would have a deleterious effect on Earth’s atmospheric chemistry, and ultimately its ecosystem. So the blast poses no threat to Earth.
It is probable, that the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) will be hammering this home in the days ahead. Mainstream churches should follow NASRDA’s lead.
There should be severe legal sanctions imposed on any individual or organization who attempts to play on the ignorance and fears of the populace.

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