More 2012 related arse gravy…

… I’ve just run across this piece of bollocks from a few days ago on news.com.au. A headline and bullet points read:

Tatooine’s twin suns – coming to a planet near you just as soon as Betelgeuse explodes.

  • Betelgeuse losing mass
  • Explosion will create “new sun”
  • May be set for 2012 appearance

Oh, dear. I’m no astrophysicist, and I’d guess that neither is Claire Connelly, the news.com.au borg who wrote it, but I am interested enough in this kind of thing to spot a few holes. First, and most obvious, should be that an exploding star hundreds of light years away doesn’t mean a second sun coming anywhere in the same way that a roadside bomb going off in the ‘Stan won’t install another light fitting in your bathroom, which I imagine is why “new sun” gets quote marks after the headline. Second, Betelgeuse is indeed losing mass, just like every star loses mass once fusion begins. They do that, you know. Mass is converted into energy – heat, light, etc. Sunshine, basically. The more massive the star the faster it happens, and since Betelgeuse is pretty big it’s losing mass at quite a rate, but all this has been known for ages – news, it ain’t. And the possible 2012 appearance? Well, let’s come back to that in a bit.

IT’S the ultimate experience for Star Wars fans – staring forlornly off into the distance as twin suns sink into the horizon.

Is it? Perhaps Claire has met more fans than I have but I’d have thought the ultimate experience for Star Wars fans would involve either light sabres, battering George Lucas unconscious with a Jar-Jar Binks figurine, using the Force to make things fly around the room, or Natalie Portman (Carrie Fisher in the tin bikini for older viewers). Two suns? Meh. Didn’t Star Trek do it already? Oh, who cares as long as Natalie Portman shows some skin?

Yet it’s not just a figment of George Lucas’s imagination…

Why not? See this morning’s blog.

… twin suns are real.

That’s completely true.

And here’s the big news – they could be coming to Earth.

That’s complete bollocks.

Yes, any day now we see a second sun light up the sky, if only for a matter of weeks.

Which – and this isn’t even a technicality here – makes it not a sun. Mister Sun shines for millions or billions of years, see? So that means that Mister Bright Light That Lasts Three Weeks Or So is not a sun, got it?

The infamous red super-giant star in Orion’s nebula – Betelgeuse – is predicted to go gangbusters…

Gangbusters?

…and the impending super-nova may reach Earth before 2012, and when it does, all of our wildest Star Wars dreams will come true.

Someone somewhere is probably expecting Natalie Portman wearing nothing but Vegemite, and will be terribly disappointed. Personally I lean towards the Jar-Jar themed violence towards George Lucas. I know for certain that I’ll be disappointed.

Now a word of warning is necessary at this point. If either of my readers (hi, Mum) know anything at all about very large stars then to protect your keyboards and monitors please put down any drinks or food right now.

The second biggest star in the universe is losing mass, a typical indication that a gravitation collapse is occurring.

I’ve already mentioned that stars are constantly losing mass and that mass loss on its own means little, but the second biggest star? In the whole fucking universe? Not even nearly, and someone must have let Claire Connelly know because at the end is a correction.

Addendum: NEWS.com.au would like to apologise for their error – as we all know, Betelgeuse is the second biggest star in the Orion constellation, not the universe.

Which makes it a bit like talking about the second tallest man in Redditch, but it’s still wrong anyway because unfortunately Betelgeuse is not the second biggest star in Orion either. By mass, which for an article that goes on to talk about whether it’ll become a black hole or a neutron star is probably most relevant, there are are several that are probably larger and at least two that are certainly larger. But if you want to talk volume then I think Betelgeuse is actually the largest of the lot (Orion, still, not the universe). Fifteen minutes of not particularly hurried Googling, basically Wikipedia entries confirmed elsewhere, was all the fact checking needed for this.

For what it’s worth Betelgeuse is the second brightest star in Orion, and journalists may be the second brightest species that mostly walks upright.

When that happens, we’ll get our second sun, according to Dr Brad Carter, Senior Lecturer of Physics at the University of Southern Queensland.

I very much doubt he said exactly that. Perhaps something about a bright light rivalling the sun, but “we’ll get our second sun”? Yeah, right.

“This old star is running out of fuel in its centre”, Dr Carter said.
“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.”
When this happens a giant explosion will occur, tens of millions of times brighter than the sun.
 [If you’re in the vicinity of Betelgeuse when it goes. If you’re watching from Norfolk it might not appear quite as bright as that – AE]
The bad news is, it could also happen in a million years. But who’s counting?

So maybe 2012 as per the bullet points at the top of the page, but also maybe 1,002,012? Could someone go check please?

Betelgeuse ‘not likely to explode in 2012’

  • Cold water poured on twin sun dreams
  • Nobody can say for sure, though…
  • More like full moon than Tatooine sun

Ah, I won’t stay up for it then.

Now I realise that the tone of the article is not supposed to be taken entirely seriously from the photo of Luke Guystalker (oh, come on, him and Han… you don’t think he had hopes?) staring moodily at the horizon where t.A.T.u’s orbs were sinking lower and lower.* Underneath it was a caption reading:

Rumours of possible wamp rats and Sarlaac manifestation yet to be confirmed.

Okay, I get the message. Tongue in cheek, fine. But what does that make the article? Because as well as not being serious it’s inaccurate and talks about something that might happen next year or up to a million years time. It could have been an amusing but informative article about the various things that might happen to it when Betelgeuse does eventually go bang. Instead it’s irrelevant, poorly checked, often inaccurate, and serves no obvious purpose other than having fun using the spelling mistakes to spot where someone at the Daily Mail has put together their own article with excessive use of copy and paste.

From news.com.au on the 19th

From the Mainly Fail yesterday

The word, both of you, is neutrinos. Please, will someone somewhere in the MSM turn on the fucking spellcheckers.

* Yes, I’m determined to get everybody thinking of those films in a whole new way.

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Posted on January 23, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on More 2012 related arse gravy….

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