What is news?

Betelgeuse (or Alpha Orionis, as it is known to friends) is a star in the constellation of Orion (well duh, look at the name).  In its vicinity, according to Douglas Adams, is a small planet which Ford Prefect called home.  Amusingly, for those of us who can remember Star Trek, it is class M star – though I don’t think this means quite what Mr Spock did when describing a similarly monickered planet.

Betelgeuse is also a red supergiant – which for a star means it is definitely drawing its pension and asking anyone who’ll listen if they know how old it is (probably 10 million years or so).  Apparently it could peg out quite soon, though quite soon for an ageing star could be any time in the next couple of million years – probably after an unfeasibly large number of come-back tours.

None of this is new information – nor does it seem terribly pressing.  I haven’t started making plans for a million years hence yet – though maybe I should something pencil in:

3 Feb 1002011  11:45  Dental Checkup

given the shortage of dentists, and the difficulty getting an appointment on the NHS, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Given these facts, it is a trifle surprising that this should be reported as news today – and, as a quick search of the interweb reveals, on several other days over the last few years.  This suggests it utterly fails to be “new”: neither a current event nor recent happening.  On the plus side, some have suggested it could provide a second sun shining day and night for several weeks – which would be good news for anyone with solar panels.

Surely, if they are going to start reporting long known about potential events in the distant future as news, our newspapers are going to be enormous (and the Sunday Times is already storing up a back-ache time bomb for the future at its current bloated size).

Come back that man with his lost cat, all is forgiven.  (I wonder if he ever found it?)


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