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A giant star is acting strange, and astronomers are buzzing

But if you’ve looked at Orion recently and thought something seemed off, you’re not wrong: The giant red star Betelgeuse, which marks the hunter’s right shoulder, is the dimmest it’s been in almost a century. However, it is unusual for one of the sky’s most prominent points of light to fade so noticeably, prompting scientists to consider the possibility that something more exciting could be about to happen: Betelgeuse might explode and die, briefly blazing brighter than the full moon before vanishing from our night sky forever. Even though Betelgeuse is nearby in astronomical terms, it’s nowhere near close enough for the explosion to affect life on Earth. Guinan and others say that supergiant stars like Betelgeuse have mottled surfaces containing massive convective cells that shrink and swell, which cause such stars to darken and brighten, but that’s not the whole story.

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