Astronomers baffled by star that is getting fainter

Wikimedia — Betelgeuses position in Orion.

Wikimedia — Betelgeuse’s position in Orion.

Nick Fioravanti, Reporter

There are billions of stars in our universe that astronomers view and study.

But recently, one of the most popular stars in the night sky, Betelgeuse, is baffling astronomers, who have observed that the star has been getting fainter and fainter.

Betelgeuse is part of the constellation Orion and is the brighter red star in the upper left of the constellation.  It is classified as a red supergiant and is many times larger than our sun.

UW Oshkosh astronomy professor Barton Pritzel says it is normal for Betelgeuse to change in its brightness, but that it is very peculiar for the star to be getting significantly fainter over time.

“The dimming part of it was something that was very confusing to astronomers because it was something very unexpected for Betelgeuse,” Pritzel said.

Pritzel says that Betelgeuse is nearing the end of its life and that the star will eventually die.

“Betelgeuse, we know sometime soon in astronomical terms, is going to explode. When it does, it will be bright enough to actually be seen in the daylight sky,” he said.

Betelgeuse is being regularly monitored by astronomers everywhere. Pritzel says the main way that astronomers look at the star is just visual, but they also do so in more advanced ways such as beyond visible light.


“We also look in wavelengths beyond the visible light, like what you and I normally see with our eyes. We look in longer wavelengths in the infrared too, which lets us know a little bit more about what’s going on with a star like this,” he said.

He added that Betelgeuse can be monitored by anyone who is interested in astronomy, whether you are a professional or a beginner.