Raise your hands if you have seen the first Star Wars. All you kids in the front please put your hands down because I am not talking about the Phantom Menace, though I suppose what I am about to say is in relation also, but we still will not go there.
Millions of geeks across the great planet of ours may soon be able to reenact one of the classic films most unappreciated scenes. As Luke Skywalker surveys the vast waste lands of his home planet there is a sunset in the background while another sun sits in the afternoon sky. Earth too could be getting a second sun, at least for a few par-secs.
Dr. Brad Carter, Physics professor at the University of Southern Queensland, laid plans for a real life Earth-reenactment. Betelgeuse, one of the brightest stars in our heavens is dying a slow and drawn out death. Overtime it has been losing mass, indicating it is collapsing. As this process happens the star loses energy that holds itself together, sort of like George Costanza’s wallet. Think of it as the elastic around the star weakening, as this happens at some point it will let go resulting in a supernova that will light up our sky for possibly a few weeks with a second Sun. And not only that, some of us may have a break from the evening depending on the intensity and positioning in the sky.
Carter has his targets set on next year possibly for the event to occur, but if he is anything like a weatherman this may or may not happen, but eventually it will. If and when this all does occur Carter has stated there is a chance that this could lead to a neutron star or result in the formation of a black hole… starting to think this all sounds like the beginning of another movie.
Carter did advise that the supernova is not as dangerous as it sounds and will not result in the onset of the 2012 doomsday scenario that our good friends the Mayans speculated some centuries ago. What is likely to happen is that Earth will be showered with harmless particles, according to Carter. “They will flood through the Earth and bizarrely enough, even though the supernova we see visually will light up the night sky, 99 per cent of the energy in the supernova is released in these particles that will come through our bodies and through the Earth with absolutely no harm whatsoever,” adding “star stuff” makes up the universe. “It literally makes things like gold, silver – all the heavy elements – even things like uranium….a star like Betelgeuse is instantly forming for us all sorts of heavy elements and atoms that our own Earth and our own bodies have from long past supernova,” said Carter.
I guess a uranium shower is more welcome than the acid rain of the 1980’s huh? And a second sun keeping daylight fresh, I am hoping for a bit of a warm up here in New England after this rough start to winter.
May the Force be with you!