Sunday, 23 January 2011

Possibly the worst bit of reporting this year

The Sunday Telegraph today contains what has to be in line for ‘Worst Reporting of the Year’ award.
Under the headline “Second Sun on its Way” (which rather caught my eye), it reports, “The Earth could find itself with a 'second sun' for a period of weeks later this year when one of the night sky’s most luminous stars explodes, scientists have claimed.”
“Fantastic!” thinks I. But to my knowledge, no-one has yet been able to predict a supernova explosion, so what’s happened?
Read on:
Betelgeuse, which is part of the Orion constellation 640 light years away from Earth, is a red supergiant, meaning that it is nearing the end of its life and is due to explode.
When it does do, it will burn so brightly that the earth will appear to have two suns in the sky, the Daily Mail reported.
So far, so familiar to astronomy fans, but then comes the key phrase:
What is less certain is when it will explode.
And so,
Brad Carter, senior lecturer of physics at the University of southern Queensland in Australia, said the explosion could take place before the end of the year – or indeed at any point over the next million years.
Hm. Not worth waiting up for, then. And in any case, astronomy being what it is on these shores, it is bound to be cloudy.
(As a PS, Betelgeuse is the slightly red-looking top left star in the constellation of Orion, the one with the 'belt' of three stars close together. It is so big that if it replaced our Sun, we would actually be orbitting inside it!)
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  1. I imagine this is due to global warming.

    If it did happen this year, presumably it would be 640 years before we saw it?

    Mark B.

  2. Great article, John!

    I don't understand the remark about global warming in the comment left above - it's not really something to joke about when it will affect so many millions of the world's poorest.

  3. But you did understand it was a joke.

    And "explaining" a joke is, well, not all that funny. Maybe I should have asked whether the death of a star is global warming or global cooling. Ah, well.

    Mark B.

  4. Mark, I forgive you! The kind of global warming the Bible predicts is, however, going to affect everyone (2 Pet 3:7).