You may have noticed in the news lately that the star Betelgeuse may explode any second. And it’s true–it really could explode at any time. But of course, the scientists have to dash our hopes and clarify that it also may not explode for something like another 100,000 years or so. Not cool, scientists, but also true. I thought I’d take a few minutes and jot down some of my thoughts about Betelgeuse, the giant star in the Orion constellation that could blow at a moment’s notice, and say, with all the feelings of my heart: Dear Betelgeuse, please explode… soon.
Betelgeuse is the star located in the left shoulder of Orion, the constellation that is built around the famous Orion’s belt. This star is humongous–waaay bigger than the Sun. It’s the type of star that goes supernova. It’s the type of star that explodes. The Sun is not, thankfully.
When it explodes from our vantage point on Earth, the supernova will eventually reach a point where it’s brighter than the full moon, and you’d be able to see it during the day time. THE DAY! How cool would that be?? And it will be visible like this for months before fading away from the naked eye. A very informative article was published recently by an Ethan Siegel, who explained all about what it will look like from Earth when Betelgeuse dies. It’s gonna be totally awesome! Check out the details here.
Time for some time calculations
Betelgeuse is something like 640 light years away. The cool thing about this is that if… IF Betelgeuse dies and goes supernova in my lifetime (and I really really hope it does), then it has already exploded. It is already dead. Because the star is so far from us, it takes 640 years for its light to reach us, so the light you see from it tonight as it twinkles down at you is around 640 years old. You, my time-traveling stargazer friend, are looking at the past. Let’s do some quick calculations here (*me pushing up my glasses and scrunching my face*):
Let’s say Betelgeuse will explode while I’m alive (please!!!). I probably won’t live longer than another 70 years. That puts the supernova-light-to-reach-Earth in the range of the years 2020-2090. Assuming that the distance from here to Betelgeuse is about 640 (it could be farther or closer, but we’ll stick to this distance), then our friendly star collapsed and detonated into a brilliant flash of light brighter than 10 billion suns sometime between the year 1380 and 1450.
To put this in perspective, that means that the light of the supernova, if it happens in my lifetime was on its way to Earth as Columbus sailed the ocean blue (in 1492); and as Sir Isaac Newton was inventing calculus (around 1666); and as George Washington dodged bullets during the French and Indian War (1755); and as Joseph Smith knelt in a grove of trees and had his First Vision (1820); and as Darwin sat in his home, putting into writing his ideas on natural selection (circa 1859); and during the day the first Land Before Time movie came out (1988); and as I got off the plane bringing me home from my mission (2012); and it is on its way while I type this post (early 2020). If Betelgeuse is observed dying in the time of my mortal existence, then all of those events happened WHILE light from the supernova was in transit, speeding towards our planet at the speed of light—yet, there it is now to our current point of view, dimming a bit more than normal, and mercilessly teasing us, but otherwise being a normal star. I can’t nerd out enough.
Is it wrong/bad to pray for a star to explode?
I can’t help but wonder out loud (on blog, in this case) if the explosion of Betelgeuse has a role to play in the Signs of the Times. I don’t recall any prophecies about exploding stars, but there certainly are prophecies about stars falling to the earth (which one could interpret as dead starlight falling upon us) (Matthew 24:29). I know that before Christ was born, Samuel the Lamanite prophesied that there would be “great lights in heaven” to signal His coming (Helaman 14:3). I wonder if there will be something similar for His Second Coming? Jesus Himself did say to His apostles that “the sign of the Son of Man in heaven” will be given, and people will “mourn” because of it (JS-M 1:36). Could this in reference to a supernova for all to see and marvel at, even during the daytime? Who knows. If so, it would be completely amazing.
Anyways, keep looking up to the stars, guys. Let’s get together and send some friendly vibes to Betelgeuse to encourage it to get its supernova on quick. It may not be an appropriate thing to pray for*, but I sincerely hope it happens in my lifetime.
*I mean, hope there aren’t groups of aliens out there praying that a star close enough to imperil Earth will explode anytime soon. You have to consider their point of view too.
Sources and Notes
Ethan Siegel article: https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2020/01/23/this-is-what-well-see-when-betelgeuse-really-does-go-supernova/?fbclid=IwAR1DEf8GAWo1pFIF3DZT1N51uOe3SqL0icO97SL9hozVA1M6DB1ip4SN3M0#69a0028643a2
For more on the uncertain distance to Betelgeuse: https://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/how-far-is-betelgeuse
Newton’s calculus: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leibniz%E2%80%93Newton_calculus_controversy
George Washington’s story of finding musketballs in his coat after having two horses shot out from underneath him during a battle: https://www.mountvernon.org/the-estate-gardens/ask/question/i-heard-a-story-about-how-george-washington-wore-a-coat-into-battle-and-discovered-afterward-that-the-coat-had-bullet-holes-in-it-can-i-learn-more-about-the-story
The Land Before Time release date: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Land_Before_Time