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

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 6:30 a.m. ET: 30,199,007 — Total deaths: 946,490— Total recoveries: 20,544, 967Map
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 6:30 a.m. ET: 6,675,593 — Total deaths: 197,644 — Total recoveries: 2,540,334 — Total tests: 90,710,730Map
  3. Politics: Former Pence aide says she plans to vote for Joe Biden, accusing Trump of costing lives in his coronavirus response.
  4. Health: Pew: 49% of Americans wouldn't get COVID-19 vaccine if available today Pandemic may cause cancer uptick The risks of moving too fast on a vaccine — COVID-19 racial disparities extend to health coverage losses.
  5. Business: Retail sales return to pre-coronavirus trend.
Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Mike Bloomberg's anti-chaos theory

CNN's Anderson Cooper questions Joe Biden last night at a drive-in town hall in Moosic, Pa., outside Scranton. Photo: CNN

Mike Bloomberg's $100 million Florida blitz begins today and will continue "wall to wall" in all 10 TV markets through Election Day, advisers tell me.

Why it matters: Bloomberg thinks that Joe Biden putting away Florida is the most feasible way to head off the national chaos we could have if the outcome of Trump v. Biden remained uncertain long after Election Day.

Biden's hardline Russia reset

Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Getty Images photos: Mark Reinstein

When he talks about Russia, Joe Biden has sounded like Ronald Reagan all summer, setting up a potential Day 1 confrontation with Russian President Vladimir Putin if Biden were to win.

Why it matters: Biden has promised a forceful response against Russia for both election interference and alleged bounty payments to target American troops in Afghanistan. But being tougher than President Trump could be the easy part. The risk is overdoing it and making diplomacy impossible.