Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Flames of Betelgeuse: New image reveals vast nebula around famous supergiant star

Date:
June 23, 2011
Source:
European Southern Observatory - ESO
Summary:
Astronomers have imaged a complex and bright nebula around the supergiant star Betelgeuse in greater detail than ever before. This structure, which resembles flames emanating from the star, is formed as the behemoth sheds its material into space.

This picture of the dramatic nebula around the bright red supergiant star Betelgeuse was created from images taken with the VISIR infrared camera on ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT). This structure, resembling flames emanating from the star, forms because the behemoth is shedding its material into space. The earlier NACO observations of the plumes are reproduced in the central disc. The small red circle in the middle has a diameter about four and half times that of the Earth's orbit and represents the location of Betelgeuse's visible surface. The black disc corresponds to a very bright part of the image that was masked to allow the fainter nebula to be seen.
Credit: ESO/P. Kervella

Using the VISIR instrument on the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT), astronomers have imaged a complex and bright nebula around the supergiant star Betelgeuse in greater detail than ever before. This structure, which resembles flames emanating from the star, is formed as the behemoth sheds its material into space.

Related Articles


Betelgeuse, a red supergiant in the constellation of Orion, is one of the brightest stars in the night sky. It is also one of the biggest, being almost the size of the orbit of Jupiter -- about four and half times the diameter of Earth's orbit. The VLT image shows the surrounding nebula, which is much bigger than the supergiant itself, stretching 60 billion kilometres away from the star's surface -- about 400 times the distance of Earth from the Sun.

Red supergiants like Betelgeuse represent one of the last stages in the life of a massive star. In this short-lived phase, the star increases in size, and expels material into space at a tremendous rate -- it sheds immense quantities of material (about the mass of the Sun) in just 10,000 years.

The process by which material is shed from a star like Betelgeuse involves two phenomena. The first is the formation of huge plumes of gas (although much smaller than the nebula now imaged) extending into space from the star's surface, previously detected using the NACO instrument on the VLT [1]. The other, which is behind the ejection of the plumes, is the vigorous up and down movement of giant bubbles in Betelgeuse's atmosphere -- like boiling water circulating in a pot.

The new results show that the plumes seen close to the star are probably connected to structures in the outer nebula now imaged in the infrared with VISIR. The nebula cannot be seen in visible light, as the very bright Betelgeuse completely outshines it. The irregular, asymmetric shape of the material indicates that the star did not eject its material in a symmetric way. The bubbles of stellar material and the giant plumes they originate may be responsible for the clumpy look of the nebula.

The material visible in the new image is most likely made of silicate and alumina dust. This is the same material that forms most of the crust of Earth and other rocky planets. At some time in the distant past, the silicates of Earth were formed by a massive (and now extinct) star similar to Betelgeuse.

In this composite image, the earlier NACO observations of the plumes are reproduced in the central disc. The small red circle in the middle has a diameter about four and half times that of Earth's orbit and represents the location of Betelgeuse's visible surface. The black disc corresponds to a very bright part of the image that was masked to allow the fainter nebula to be seen. The VISIR images were taken through infrared filters sensitive to radiation of different wavelengths, with blue corresponding to shorter wavelengths and red to longer. The field of view is 5.63 x 5.63 arcseconds.

This research was presented in a paper to appear in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

The team is composed of P. Kervella (Observatoire de Paris, France), G. Perrin (Observatoire de Paris, France), A. Chiavassa (Universite Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium), S. T. Ridgway (National Optical Astronomy Observatories, Tucson, USA), J. Cami (University of Western Ontario,Canada; SETI Institute, Mountain View, USA), X. Haubois (Universidade de Sao Paulo, Brazil) and T. Verhoelst (Instituut voor Sterrenkunde, Leuven, Belgium).

Note:

[1] NACO is a VLT instrument that combines the Nasmyth Adaptive Optics System (NAOS) and the Near-infrared Imager and Spectrograph (CONICA). It provides adaptive optics assisted imaging, imaging polarimetry, coronography and spectroscopy, at near-infrared wavelengths.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by European Southern Observatory - ESO. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. P. Kervella, G. Perrin, A. Chiavassa, S. T. Ridgway, J. Cami, X. Haubois, T. Verhoelst. The close circumstellar environment of Betelgeuse. II. Diffraction-limited spectro-imaging from 7.76 to 19.50 microns with VLT/VISIR. Astronomy & Astrophysics, 2011; DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201116962

Cite This Page:

European Southern Observatory - ESO. "Flames of Betelgeuse: New image reveals vast nebula around famous supergiant star." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110623085844.htm>.
European Southern Observatory - ESO. (2011, June 23). Flames of Betelgeuse: New image reveals vast nebula around famous supergiant star. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110623085844.htm
European Southern Observatory - ESO. "Flames of Betelgeuse: New image reveals vast nebula around famous supergiant star." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110623085844.htm (accessed October 31, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Friday, October 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Antares Liftoff Explosion

Raw: Antares Liftoff Explosion

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) Observers near Wallops Island recorded what they thought would be a routine rocket launch Tuesday night. What they recorded was a major rocket explosion shortly after lift off. (Oct 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Russian Cargo Ship Docks at Space Station

Raw: Russian Cargo Ship Docks at Space Station

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) Just hours after an American cargo run to the International Space Station ended in flames, a Russian supply ship has arrived at the station with a load of fresh supplies. (Oct. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Journalist Captures Moment of Antares Rocket Explosion

Journalist Captures Moment of Antares Rocket Explosion

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 29, 2014) A space education journalist is among those who witness and record the explosion of an unmanned Antares rocket seconds after its launch. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rocket Explosion Under Investigation

Rocket Explosion Under Investigation

AP (Oct. 28, 2014) NASA and Orbital Sciences officials say they are investigating the explosion of an unmanned commercial supply rocket bound for the International Space Station. It blew up moments after liftoff Tuesday evening over the launch site in Virginia. (Oct. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins