Study of weather satellite data confirms theories surrounding Betelgeuse’s 2019 dimming

Study of weather satellite data confirms theories surrounding Betelgeuse’s 2019 dimming

L'étude des données du satellite météorologique confirme les théories entourant la gradation de Bételgeuse en 2019

Betelgeuse observed with the Himawari-8 weather satellite near the edge of the Earth’s disk. a, False-color image taken by the Himawari-8 satellite on January 19, 2020. Betelgeuse is located in the upper right corner of the image. b,c, Enlarged images of band 7. d, The response functions of Himawari-8. e, The observed SED after averaging all observations with a model spectrum fitted to it. Credit: natural astronomy (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41550-022-01680-5

A trio of researchers from the University of Tokyo have discovered that data from weather satellites can be used to study stars. In their article published in the journal natural astronomy, Daisuke Taniguchi, Kazuya Yamazaki, and Shinsuke Uno describe the study of the dimming of Betelgeuse in 2019 by analyzing data from the Himawari-8 weather satellite.

In 2019, Betelgeuse, a red supergiant star, dimmed, an event some in the space community have dubbed the Great Dimming. The dimming lasted until early 2020. Space scientists around the world studied the unexpected phenomenon, and while some suggested it was an indication that Betelgeuse was about to go supernova, others didn’t. disagreed, insisting that it seemed more likely that while part or all of the star might have darkened, it seemed more likely that the dimming was due to interference from a cloud of dust.

In this new effort, the researchers wondered if Japan’s Himawari-8 weather satellite could provide insight into the reason for the dimming. They noted that it records infrared data and sends it to ground stations around the clock. They also noted that the satellite was sent so far into space that it was able to capture weather for the entire surface of the planet as well as some of the stars in the background.

The researchers obtained data from the satellite for the years 2017 to 2021 and analyzed it for imagery of Betelgeuse. They found that they were able to get data about the star once a day for all the years they studied. They analyzed this data to learn more about the dimming that occurred in 2019 and found evidence that the star’s temperature was decreasing by around 140 degrees Celsius. They also found evidence of sight-obscuring dust and suggest their analysis confirms what many others had suspected regarding the reason for the dimming.

Their work shows that data from weather satellites could be a valuable resource for space scientists. Not only are the data they provide collected more regularly than traditional ground-based telescopes, but they provide a sharper view as the satellites orbit above the Earth’s atmosphere.

New study sheds light on Betelgeuse’s mysterious dimming

More information:
Daisuke Taniguchi et al, The Great Dimming of Betelgeuse seen by the Himawari-8 weather satellite, natural astronomy (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41550-022-01680-5

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