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Betelgeuse as seen by ALMA. Photo: ESO/NAOJ/NRAO/E. O’Gorman/P. Kervella

Astronomers are speculating that one of the most famous stars in the night sky could explode as a supernova in the not-too-distant future.

Driving the news: Scientists have been watching as Betelgeuse, which is located in the constellation Orion, has dimmed more than expected, potentially signaling that it's about to explode.

Why it matters: Being able to observe a nearby supernova would be a rare opportunity that would allow researchers to gather priceless data on an event that only happens two or three times per century in the Milky Way.

  • A network of instruments on Earth will be on hand to detect the supernova, which may even be visible in daylight.

How it works: When a star goes supernova, subatomic particles called neutrinos shoot out from its collapsing core before the light from the explosion is visible.

  • A network of seven detectors — called SNEWS (pronounced "snooze") — is on the lookout for those neutrinos, acting as an early warning system for supernova.
  • Being able to detect these neutrinos allows for hours of lead time before the supernova is visible.
  • "[W]e're talking about some of the most intense environments in the universe. You really can't find anything more energetic than these explosions," Indiana University's Justin Vasel told Axios.

But, but, but: There's no guarantee that the star's explosion is imminent. It's possible that Betelgeuse's dimming is a normal part of its stellar cycle and isn't actually a sign of exciting things to come.

Go deeper: Rare supernova is helping scientists unlock some of the inner-workings of the universe

Go deeper

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
30 mins ago - Economy & Business

The biggest obstacle to a wealth tax

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Taxing the rich is an idea that's back. An "ultra-millionaire tax" introduced by Elizabeth Warren and other left-wing Democrats this week would raise more than $3 trillion over 10 years, they say, while making the tax system as a whole more fair.

Why it matters: New taxes would be a necessary part of any Democratic plan to redistribute wealth and reduce inequality. But President Biden has more urgent priorities — and Warren's wealth tax in particular faces constitutional obstacles that make it a hard sell.

House passes sweeping election and anti-corruption bill

Photo: Win McNamee via Getty Images

The House voted 220-210Wednesday to pass Democrats' expansive election and anti-corruption bill.

Why it matters: Expanding voting access has been a top priority for Democrats for years, but the House passage of the For the People Act (H.R. 1) comes as states across the country consider legislation to rollback voting access in the aftermath of former President Trump's loss.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

House passes George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

Photo: Stephen Maturen via Getty Images

The House voted 220 to 212 on Wednesday evening to pass a policing bill named for George Floyd, the Black man whose death in Minneapolis last year led to nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Why it matters: The legislation overhauls qualified immunity for police officers, bans chokeholds at the federal level, prohibits no-knock warrants in federal drug cases and outlaws racial profiling.