I find stuff like this interesting: Sometime in the next 100,000 years, the star Betelgeuse, which is 640 light-years away in the constellation Orion, will go supernova. Excerpt:
Right now, Betelgeuse is absolutely enormous, irregularly shaped, and with an uneven surface temperature. Located approximately 640 light-years away, it’s more than 2,000 °C cooler than our Sun, but also much larger, at approximately 900 times our Sun’s radius and occupying some 700,000,000 times our Sun’s volume. If you were to replace our Sun with Betelgeuse, it would engulf Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, the asteroid belt, and even Jupiter!
But there are also enormous, extended emissions around Betelgeuse from material that’s been blown off over the past few dozen millennia: matter and gas that extends out farther than Neptune’s orbit around our Sun. Over time, as the inevitable supernova approaches, Betelgeuse will shed more mass, continue to expand, dim-and-brighten chaotically, and will burn progressively heavier elements in its core.
All of a sudden, the luminosity of Betelgeuse would spike by about a factor of 7,000 from its previously steady value. It would go from one of the brightest stars in the night sky to the brightness of a thin crescent Moon: about 40 times brighter than the planet Venus. That peak brightness would only last for a few minutes before falling again back to being just about 5 times brighter than it previously was, but then the traditional supernova rise begins.
Over a time period of approximately 10 days, the brightness of Betelgeuse will gradually rise, eventually becoming about as bright as the full Moon. Its brightness will surpass all the stars and planets after about an hour, will reach that of a half Moon in three days, and will reach its maximum brightness after approximately 10 days. To skywatchers across the globe, Betelgeuse will appear to be even brighter than the full Moon, as instead of being spread out over half a degree (like the full Moon), all of its brightness will be concentrated into a single, solitary, saturated point.
What’s kind of cool about all this is that Betelgeuse may have gone supernova 600 years ago, and we still won’t see it until on or about my 100th birthday!
This of course serves to point out how vastly huge, how enormously immense, even our stellar neighborhood is. In the cosmic scheme of things Betelgeuse is a near neighbor; but it takes light, traveling at 186,282 miles per second, 640 years to reach us. That means that Betelgeuse is 3,762,320,000,000,000 miles away.
And that’s a hop, skip and a jump, cosmically speaking. The nearest galaxy from ours is Andromeda, and it takes light 2.5 million years to travel the 1.4696563 x 1019 miles from there to here. When we look at Andromeda, we are seeing fossil light. We are literally looking into the past.
Do these facts have any immediate impact in our lives? No. But that doesn’t stop me from thinking that it’s cool.