Some of us really enjoy news from space. You know, they find a new planet in another solar system, and we think about pulling up stakes and hopping on the next starship to the Delta Quadrant.
Remember when “Star Wars” first came out? Before Lucas decided to do the prequel schtick that turned the first Star Wars into the fourth episode, “A New Hope“? The coolest thing was that Luke Skywalker‘s home planet, Tatooine, was in a binary star system and you could see a double sunset.
So I got really excited when I saw this at the Time Web site:
Astrophysicists say that Betelgeuse, the red super-giant that is the ninth brightest star in the sky, is losing mass—an indication of gravitational collapse. Brad Carter, a senior lecturer of physics at the University of Southern Queensland, explained to news.com.au that the star is essentially running out of the fuel at its core. “This fuel keeps Betelgeuse shining and supported. When this fuel runs out the star will literally collapse in upon itself and it will do so very quickly,” he said. The subsequent explosion will appear tens of millions of times brighter than the sun, meaning 24-hours of light on Earth.
And Time give the story this headline:
Will the Earth Have Two Suns by 2012?
Then you read the whole story and the scam of a magazine sticks this in:
And while the celestial event could take place before the end of 2012, it may not occur for a million years.
Did anyone at Time notice that’s not exactly a helpful estimate? (Well, it could happen tomorrow, or it could happen a long, long time after you and everyone you know and everything currently alive today are dead.
Now Betelgeuse is somewhere from 500 to 800 light years away from Earth. That means that when you look at it in the constellation Orion tonight, what you’re seeing is something that actually happened probably around the 13th century. (Simple physics: nothing moves faster than light. It has taken the light you see up to 800 years to get here.)
So since they’re predicting that something that supposedly happened centuries ago might show up next year, or might show up a million years from now, it’s safe to say the astronomers who released the information don’t know what they’re talking about.
I’ll just go back now to waiting for news about new class M planets and figuring out what the other letters in the planetary class designations mean. After all, Time says I’ve got all the time in the world.