Betelgeuse went dark, but didn’t go supernova. What happened?
The bright star’s great dimming may have been a big dust burp
Astrophysicist Miguel Montargès has a clear memory of the moment the stars became real places to him. He was 7 or 8 years old, looking up from the garden of his parents’ apartment in the south of France. A huge, red star winked in the night. The young space fan connected the star to a map he had studied in an astronomy magazine and realized he knew its name: Betelgeuse.
Something shifted for him. That star was no longer an anonymous speck floating in a vast uncharted sea. It was a destination, with a name.
“I thought, wow, for the first time … I can name a star,” he says. The realization was life-changing.
Since then, Montargès, now at the Paris Observatory, has written his Ph.D. thesis and about a dozen papers about Betelgeuse. He considers the star an old friend, observing it many times a year, for work and for fun. He says good-bye every May when the star slips behind the sun from the perspective of Earth, and says hello again in August when the star comes back.