The Very Large Telescope at the European Southern Observatory has taken some of the clearest images to date of Betelgeuse, the red supergiant that makes up the shoulder of Orion in the night sky.

The images are pretty awesome, revealing that the star, which is 1,000 times larger and 100,000 times brighter than our own Sun, is also ejecting a plume of gas the size of our solar system. This super fast weight loss technique is helpful in explaining how a star as young as Betelgeuse, at only a few million years old, seems ready to go supernova so soon that an existing human civilization could still see it.

So, say the next ten years or so. In the meantime, the rest of will have to settle for pictures like the one above, which were obtained using the VTL’s ‘lucky imaging’ capabilities. Rather than taking one long still shot from the Earth, which for purposes of cosmic photography is like using a drunk guy on one leg as your tripod, lucky imaging takes lots of images very quickly, and then blends the clearest ones together to create an image that’s sharper than the sum of it’s parts.

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