You may have heard about Betelgeuse in the news over the past few months; it’s been getting surprisingly dim since October, and astronomers have been speculating as to the reasons why! In a new paper out of the UW Massive Stars research group! and Lowell Observatory, myself and Phil Massey present some new observations of Betelgeuse, taken near the dimmest point in its evolution with the Lowell Discovery Telescope, and propose an explanation for the star’s weird behavior! One popular explanation was that Betelgeuse has been looking dimmer because its surface has been temporarily cooling off, thanks to big convective cells on the star’s surface. Our observations actually showed that this is not the case; Betelgeuse is pretty much the same temperature that it’s always been! Instead we think that this nearby red supergiant has simply shed some mass that’s condensed into dust, blocking our line of sight to the star and making it appear dimmer.
The paper is currently in press with ApJ Letters and can be found on arXiv. You can also check out a press release on the paper put together UW and Lowell Observatory, and read a Twitter thread I put together explaining the main results of the paper!