Betelgeuse poses no threat to us

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Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse!

In a specific instance of the Supernova claim that 2012 proponents often make, Betelgeuse is linked to the 2012 doomsday. This article shows why this claim is incorrect.

Betelgeuse (Alpha Orionis, α Orionis, α Ori) is a red supergiant star in the constellation of Orion. It marks the left shoulder of the figure of Orion the hunter.

Earth getting a Second Sun?

On January 21, 2011, a forum post appeared discussing a claim by Dr. Brad Carter, University of Queensland, that Betelgeuse could "go super-nova at any time"1. Even embedded in the short linked article was the disclaimer:

Before all of you 2012 doomsday believers go all haywire, then you should know that this event will be harmless to Earth.

Apparently the short piece on Chacha[2] was fueled by either the original story on[4] or by the followup piece on the Huffington Post [3]. In the original article, the date "2012" is mentioned three times, including in one of the bullet points at the top of the article, although Dr. Carter makes no such claim in his quoted remarks.

Huffington Post

In a classic case of a news story getting worse as it passes through more organizations, the Huffington Post published an article that mis-quoted the original article, saying:

The Star Wars-esque scenario could happen by 2012, Carter says… or it could take longer.2

When Dr. Carter clearly did not say that in the original article3.

Phil Plait

The Bad Astronomer, Dr. Phil Plait took up the issue on his blog4, saying:

It’s the question of when that the two articles go off the rails. Betelgeuse may explode tomorrow night, or it may not go kerblooie until the year 100,000 A.D. We don’t know. But given that huge range, the odds of it blowing up next year are pretty slim. And clearly, the original article was really trying to tie in the 2012 date to this, even when it has nothing to do with anything. The tie-in was a rickety link to scuttlebutt on the web about it, but that’s about it. (emphasis in original)

Plait also points out that the Huffington Post article clearly misquotes the original.

In 2008, Plait posted a YouTube video in response to the question of when Betelgeuse would go super-nova, saying essentially that we don't know and have no way of knowing other than in the broadest sense (i.e., 'sometime in the next few million years'), but identifies two other super-nova candidates that are much more likely to go super-nova before Betelgeuse.5

Dr. Ian O'Neill Space Editor Dr. Ian O'Neill also took up the issue in a story written on January 20th, saying:6

But what's all this fuss about the star exploding by 2012? That's complete garbage. There is absolutely no indication that the star will explode in the next year or so. Even the most advanced telescopes and sophisticated computer models cannot predict an exploding star with that precision!

By the article's own admission, the supernova might not happen for a million years — begging the question as to why a half-baked 2012 Betelgeuse doomsday theory is even being mentioned.

In an update to that article (scroll down to the end) O'Neill also takes the Huffington Post article to task, saying:

Although Carter does provide quotes, he does not say that due to a Betelgeuse supernova "we'd see a second sun", "there may also be no night" or "the Star Wars-esque scenario could happen by 2012." These statements were made by the reporter, not the interviewee (as far as we can tell from the article).

Backtracking by

In a followup article on posted January 22nd, backs off of the claim made in the original article that it 'could happen by 2012'. They quote Dr. Carter again, saying:

Dr Carter followed up his comments today, saying he knew of no scientific basis to suggest the star would go supernova in time to satisfy doomsday followers' predictions.

He instead pointed to a New Scientist article that quoted Nobel prize winner Charles Townes as saying there was no way of knowing how red giants behave at the end of their life cycle.

He said that while it will shine with "incredible brightness" it would be more like a full moon, rather than Tatooine's second sun.7

Reading between the lines, we wonder how Dr. Carter felt about being linked to the 2012 doomsday, when his original comments had nothing to do with it?


We have shown that the prevailing scientific opinion is that Betelgeuse poses no threat to us, now, in 2012, or within the next million years.


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