Home » Astronomers see giant star briefly vanish at the rear of ‘dark, large’ object of not known origin

Astronomers see giant star briefly vanish at the rear of ‘dark, large’ object of not known origin

Astronomers see giant star briefly vanish behind 'dark, large' object of unknown origin

Anything handed in entrance of a star in a distant portion of the Milky Way — but astronomers usually are not sure what.


Amanda Smith/College of Cambridge

In 2012, a large star some 25,000 light-weight-many years away blinked at the Earth, and we stared back again, a very little perplexed.

Astronomers working with the VISTA telescope in Chile watched the star substantially reduce in brightness and then light-weight up once more around a period of time of close to 200 times. The group has a hunch that a large object, orbiting the big star, obscured our view of it briefly — but the mother nature of the occulting object is uncertain. They have dubbed the party VVV-WIT-08.

“It truly is awesome that we just observed a dim, massive and elongated object move in between us and the distant star and we can only speculate what its origin is,” stated Sergey Koposov, an astronomer at the University of Edinburgh and co-creator of the new review.

The review, released in the journal Month-to-month Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, suggests a pair of prospects, but the dip will not seem to be because of to capabilities inherent to the star by itself — it must be a gravitationally certain companion. 

The celebration was discovered in the VISTA Variables in the By means of Lactea survey (VVV). The WIT acronym that stands for “What is this?” and is applied when astronomers aren’t apparent on why these giant stars may well be blinking.

An animation of the mysterious item that handed in entrance of VVV-WIT-08?


Leigh Smith, Sergey Koposov

A quantity of WIT objects have been learned ahead of, with a handful of explanations: violent quasars, star collisions and novas. The crew state this 1 is practically definitely an occultation party — something has handed in entrance of the star from our view in the universe — and it ought to be faint, with a thickness bigger than 23 million miles (or about 1-quarter of the length concerning the Earth and the sun).

They regarded as a quantity of unique objects, ruling out a possibility object wandering the cosmos just passing in front of the star. It really is also unlikely enormous discs of debris about white dwarfs and neutron stars brought about the occultation, however the workforce say that a cloud of dusty, messy gas and particles about a black hole — a “black hole fallback disc” — may perhaps be to blame.

The crew have also identified two other prospect gatherings, VVV-WIT-10 and VVV-WIT-11, suggesting there may well be much more of these “blinking giants” to discover and describe.

“There are unquestionably additional to be uncovered, but the obstacle now is in figuring out what the concealed companions are, and how they came to be surrounded by discs, even with orbiting so significantly from the huge star,” said Leigh Smith, an astronomer at Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy and first creator of the examine.