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Betelgeuse sparks doomsday debate

Is the constellation Orion's famous red supergiant due to go supernova sometime in the next few months? Mmmm, not likely, says Phil Plait, the scientist and skeptic who runs the Bad Astronomy website. And even if Betelgeuse does blow up, it won't pose a threat to Earth, he says.

Plait should know. He's the author of "Death From the Skies," a book that goes into supernovae and other bad things that the cosmos can dish out. The buzz started with a posting on the Life After the Oil Crash Forum, claiming that Betelgeuse's blast might "burn the crops" and "freak everybody out." Plait weighed in with the reasons why that won't be the case.

It is true that Betelgeuse appears to be shedding mass and looks as if it might explode sometime in the next 10,000 years or so. But it's hard to pinpoint exactly when the end will come - and at a distance of 600 light-years, the blast won't have a big effect on Earth, Plait says.

The doomsday talk is reminiscent of earlier scares over the Large Hadron Collider and 2012's approach. And the bottom line is the same: DON'T PANIC!


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