By Tim Binnall
Scientists have solved a short-lived space mystery surrounding a change in brightness emanating from the star Betelgeuse. The orange-hued supergiant star, which is situated in the constellation of Orion, raised astronomers' eyebrows in late 2019 and early 2020 when they detected a noticeable difference in its luminosity (as seen in the video above). Understandably intrigued by what they were seeing, researchers took a closer look at the star and reportedly determined that the cause of what has come to be known as Betelgeuse's Great Dimming was a cloud of cosmic dust.
Explaining how the event came about, astronomers say that a bubble of gas likely burst forth from the simmering star and, in turn, caused its surface to slightly cool. This change in temperature resulted in the gas being transformed into a cloud of cosmic dust that lingered in from of Betelgeuse during the period that it appeared to grow darker to those observing it from Earth. Beyond merely solving the Great Dimming mystery, lead researcher Miguel Montarges marveled that "we have directly witnessed the formation of so-called 'stardust'"
The determination that the Great Dimming was caused by a dust cloud will likely provide some relief to those who may have feared that Betelgeuse was poised to explode into a supernova. While such a development, which will eventually occur, would not cause us any harm here on Earth, it would be a staggering event to witness and, undoubtedly, would be interpreted by many to be some ominous sign of things to come. Fortunately, we've been spared that drama for now as Betelgeuse returned to its normal luminosity shortly after the dust cloud dissipated.