“Vanished” –Mystery of a Massive Star in a Dwarf Galaxy
Did an unstable ‘luminous blue variable’ star some 2.5 million times brighter than the Sun in the Kinman Dwarf galaxy collapse into a black hole without producing a supernova. Or, did it become become partially obscured by dust, like the detection of the infamous Tabby’s “alien megastructure star” discovered in 2016 by a group of astronomers at Penn State University that went viral as “the most mysterious star in the universe.”
Between 2001 and 2011, various teams of astronomers using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) studied the mysterious object. Their observations indicated it was in a late stage of its evolution. Andrew Allan of Trinity College Dublin and his collaborators in Ireland, Chile and the US wanted to find out more about how very massive stars end their lives, and the object in the Kinman Dwarf seemed like the perfect target.
However when they aimed ESO’s VLT at the distant galaxy in 2019, the telltale signatures of the star had vanished. “Instead, we were surprised to find out that the star had disappeared!” says Allan, who led a study of the star published today in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Located some 75 million light-years from Earth, the dwarf galaxy is too far away for astronomers to see its individual stars, but they can detect the signatures of some of them. From 2001 to 2011, the light from the galaxy consistently showed evidence that it hosted the unstable object with its occasional dramatic shifts in their ...
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