Editor’s Note: Don Lincoln is a senior scientist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. He is the author of several science books for general audiences, including the best-selling audio book “The Theory of Everything: The Quest to Explain All Reality.” He also produces a series of science education videos. Follow him on Facebook. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely his. View more opinion articles on CNN.
“My love for you is as eternal as the sun” might be a heartfelt line in a love letter written by a young man to his beloved. As poetic as the sentiment might be, it doesn’t mean quite what the young swain intended, for the sun, like all stars, was born and now lives in vibrant middle age, but it is destined to die one day. While that inevitable moment is billions of years in the sun’s future, a nearby star may be facing a more imminent demise.
Betelgeuse is a star in the constellation Orion and is one of the brightest stars in the heavens, prominently marching across the night sky every fall and spring. It has observably dimmed in recent months, a sign that some astronomers interpret as a warning that the star will explode in one of the most powerful and dramatic events in all of the cosmos – a supernova.