Will Betelgeuse become a black hole? Betelgeuse is the center of attraction, as it is among the brightest stars in our galaxy, but it is supposed to lose its powers.
Considering its red dimming, experts think its time is near.
But, if it eventually explodes, “Could Betelgeuse turn into a black hole after it goes supernova?” Or, “Will Betelgeuse become a black hole or a neutron star?”
Yes, eventually Betelgeuse will explode and either leave a black hole or neutron star, but it won’t happen soon.
More about Betelgeuse the Star
Betelgeuse is one of the brightest stars in our sky and the second brightest in the well-known Orion constellation which contains many of skies brightest stars.
Its more scientific name is Alpha Orionis, but Betelgeuse, which means either ‘the giant’s shoulder’ or the ‘armpit of the giant’ in Arabic suits it better.
It is because it offers a clue to its location on the mythological hunter the constellation is named for.
Here is more about Betelgeuse:
|126,000 times greater than the sun
|Distance from sun
|More than 548 light years
|764 solar radii
|Magnitude variability range
|Broadest among stars
|Between +0.0 and +1.23
An Important Thing to Know
Betelgeuse is huge, some 764 times bigger than our star, the Sun and it is surrounded by spent star material.
These fragments of its core’s shell are evidence of past explosions. The largest has a radius of 7.5 light years.
Fact: Scientists have discovered that Betelgeuse is at least 126,000 times brighter as compared to our sun.
The Idea of Stars Becoming Black Holes
Black holes are formed by very dense neutron stars, although in celestial terms, they are surprisingly small bodies. They were once supermassive stars.
After they went supernova, the core retained enough mass for it to compress into a body so dense, that it had immense gravitational forces.
These warp and stretch space-time throughout entire regions of space.
Black holes only show up against the vastness of space because even light cannot escape.
Will Betelgeuse Become a Black Hole?
The experts believe that Betelgeuse will eventually explode and become a black hole.
But, it also leads us to another question, “When will Betelgeuse explode?” According to the main school of scientific thought, it is not going to happen anytime soon.
However, stars like Betelgeuse do only live about 10 million years, which astrologically is a very short lifespan.
Fact: Betelgeuse belongs to two asterisms, called the Winter Hexagon asterism and the Winter Triangle asterism.
Could Betelgeuse Turn into a Black Hole?
As large as Betelgeuse is, most astronomers agree the star did not have the mass to form a black hole even though it is enormous.
Even dying, the red star giant is an energy powerhouse but its end will be rapid and over in seconds.
As gravity takes over pressures and temperatures rush to equalize, the violence of the process strips the star’s core of all but its densest heaviest material.
What Happens When It Goes Supernova?
The debris is flung away to collect in space at the furthest reach of the impact as nebula clouds.
They are loaded with star-building dust. As powerful as the supernova is, it is a natural part of the star formation process.
From Earth, the supernova will look spectacular but will have no more impact than a distant firework. We are just too far away.
Fact: It has been found that Betelgeuse loses at least one solar mass in 10,000 years.
A Neutron Star
What’s left of the core are its neutrons, tiny subatomic particles that carry no charge.
They are instantly compressed into a single dense mass under gravity’s pressure.
This is a neutron star. Its density is so low, it warps space-time, funneling dark matter down to its center.
Its impact increases with its size, like placing increasing weights on a trampoline.
Even with a significant increase in mass, Betelgeuse would still only have had the potential to become a black hole.
The Final Stage of a Star’s Lifecycle
There are only two outcomes when the core of a star like Betelgeuse collapses in a supernova:
- A black hole
- A neutron star
Betelgeuse will likely leave a neutron star, made of nothing other than tightly packed neutrons, emitting radiation whilst spinning at super high speeds.
It’ll take millions of years to slow down.
Can It Easily Turn into Black Hole?
Betelgeuse was born from cosmic dust and evolved into a star over millennia.
But, it takes very specific conditions for even the biggest collapsing stars to leave black holes.
Although Betelgeuse is big, it is still far too small, and besides there are several other factors that determine whether or not a star leaves a black hole, not just the star’s initial mass.
An Important Thing to Consider
It’s only stars between 8 and 40 times more massive than our sun that become red supergiants.
They burn fuel fast, no matter how big they are, so the inward push of gravity is held in balance by the outward push of the photons provided by the star’s nuclear fusion.
Why only some stars leave black holes and at what point a neutron star becomes a black hole is under study and up for debate.
Fact: Scientists have discovered there is a nebula around Betelgeuse, which is about 250 times larger.
Is Betelgeuse Going to Explode?
Betelgeuse is a red star supergiant and shines with a red hue we can see here on Earth with the naked eye 548 light years away.
It is a clue to the star’s age and a reason people might think it’s about to explode.
Betelgeuse – The Exploding Star!
Among other things, stars glow red as they are dying, in much the same way a coal ember does.
Its reddishness varies, making Betelgeuse a variable star, confirming that it is in the final stages of its life cycle.
The demise of Betelgeuse is an opportunity to witness at least some of what our own Sun will go through in 5 billion years’ time.
Yes, we won’t witness its eventual end, although in cosmic terms, it is happening in the blink of an eye.
A Variable Star Reaching Its End
Betelgeuse’s red is fluctuating. It’s an indication that the star is reaching the end of its fuel.
Like most stars, it is powered by nuclear fusion, converting hydrogen to helium in the core.
Betelgeuse is showing evidence its struggling to keep the pressure from the fusion at levels that will keep the forces of gravity at bay.
Once, these had been in balance.
But supplies of the hydrogen fueling the nuclear reaction taking place in the core is a finite resource.
If fusion stops completely, the star will implode, then explode, and what remains compressed, as gravity takes over.
Understanding the Variability
From our point of view, Betelgeuse has always been a variable star. One of many main sequence stars in later stages with phases of brightening and dimming.
There are two types:
- Intrinsic variable
- Extrinsic variable
Betelgeuse is an intrinsic variable because the changes in brightness are caused by the processes taking place in the star.
There is no outside influence. These stars shrink and expand. When expanded, the red is dim. When contracted, it is bright.
When will Betelgeuse Explode?
Betelgeuse may be in its death throes but it is not ready to explode.
What caused concern was recent observations of its magnitude (brightness).
Betelgeuse underwent a sudden and dramatic ‘Great Dimming’ late in 2019. It had returned to normal by early 2020.
The rapid dimming was established as the result of a large ejection of gas that had cooled into dust.
A recently 2023 published paper on the evolutionary stages of Betelgeuse concluded the star was indeed in its final phases.
The Great Dimming was a drop in temperature as the star began burning its last carbon deposits.
The change in the pattern of the fluctuations could be signaling an impending supernova.
Where Do Researchers Stand?
The researchers suggest that perhaps Betelgeuse only has a few hundred years left, not several hundred thousand, which would make it the prime suspect for the next major stellar event.
The super-nova, Betelgeuse’s last big bang, will happen when it finally runs out of fuel.
Until then, the competing pressures will cause it to pulse as it expands and contracts.
At the end, the extremely high temperatures produced by the collapsing core blow the shell from its core, and that means the end is near.
Fact: The many shell fragments in orbit around Betelgeuse prove it has already lost the shell several times, and with each event, Betelgeuse loses mass until eventually, gravity wins.
Will Betelgeuse become a black hole? Betelgeuse is destined to go supernova in the future.
Nevertheless, experts anticipate that this occurrence is improbable to transpire for approximately another 100,000 years.
By then, Betelgeuse will transform into either a neutron star or a black hole.
The ultimate destiny of the star hinges on the quantity of matter remaining following the occurrence of a supernova.