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Rare eclipse of giant star with asteroids also visible in Greece (video)

One of the biggest and brightest stars in the night sky will disappear instantlyaia as an asteroid will pass in front of it creating a phenomenon that will be observed for the first time by scientists on Earth. The star is Betelgeuse, a red supergiant about 700 light-years from Earth in the constellation Orion. The asteroid is has received the name and a slowly rotating elongated space rock in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

The rare but extremely short-lived spectacle will take place sometime next Monday night into the early hours of Tuesday, and astronomers estimate it may be visible to millions of people in a narrow path that stretches from Tajikistan and Armenia, to all over Turkey, Greece, Italy and Spain, to Miami and the Florida Keys and finally to some areas of Mexico.

The they hope to learn more about Betelgeuse and asteroid Leona through the eclipse, which is expected to last no longer than 15 seconds. Recent observations of asteroid Leona have shown it to be 55 km wide and 80 km long.  It is unclear whether the asteroid will obscure the entire star, causing a total eclipse. Instead, the result could be a "ring of fire" eclipse with a tiny burning outline around the star. If it's a total eclipse, astronomers aren't sure how many seconds the star will be completely gone, perhaps as long as 10 seconds.

"Which scenario we will see is uncertain, making the event even more interesting," said astronomer Gianluca Massa, founder of the Virtual Telescope Project which will provide a live webcast of the event from Italy.

Betelgeuse is thousands of times brighter than the Sun and about 700 times larger. It is so huge that if it took the place of the Sun it would extend beyond Jupiter. At just 10 million years old, Betelgeuse is practically a baby compared to the 4,6 billion year old Sun. Scientists expect Betelgeuse's existence in the Universe to be short-lived given its mass and the rate at which it is estimated to burn through its fuel. Scientists expect Betelgeuse to be destroyed in a supernova explosion within 100.000 years.

The mystery

At the end of 2019, the brightness of Betelgeuse suddenly decreased too much and the star remained very dim for about two months causing concern in the scientific community which is trying to find an answer to this phenomenon without succeeding to date.

The observations and studies that followed the discovery of the phenomenon produced various ideas and theories with two of them dominating since then. One theory is that there is a large cold spot on the surface of the star, because this is what is found in red supergiants, and this cold spot causes it to dim periodically.

The second theory mentions the presence of a cloud ς που σχηματίστηκε ξαφνικά μπροστά στο άστρο, όπως αυτό φαίνεται από τη Γη. Ερευνητική ομάδα από το KU Leuven in Belgium argued that both theories are valid and their combination causes the phenomenon. According to this theory, a cold spot appeared on the star which, due to the local drop in temperature, led to the condensation of the gas that was there, turning it into dust, dimming the star.


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