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A star obscured by something mysterious

A star obscured by something mysterious

In 2012, a giant star about 25,000 light-years away on Earth flashed, causing doubts, confusion and many concerns among astronomers. And not only. Astronomers using the VISTA telescope in Chile saw the star’s brightness drop dramatically and then re-ignite for about 200 days.

Report published in the Monthly Notice of the Royal Astronomical Society (Adobe Stock)

The team feels that a large object, orbiting the giant star, has briefly obscured their view. But the nature of the hidden thing is uncertain. The event was called VVV-WIT-08. “It’s incredible. We just saw a large, elongated dark object pass between us and the distant star. We can only speculate what its origin is,” said Sergei Koposov, an astronomer at the University of Edinburgh and co-author of the new study on the mysterious object.

Astronomers at work: Hypotheses about the phenomenon that caused the light to drop

Astronomers, the acronym WIT stands for "What is that?" (Adobe Stock)
Astronomy, the acronym WIT that stands for “What is this?” (Adobe Stock)

The report, published in the Monthly Notice of the Royal Astronomical Society, proposes two hypotheses, but IThe decrease in light does not appear to be caused by properties inherent in the star itself: They must all be related to gravity in some way.

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The event was discovered in VISTA Variables in the Via Lactea survey. The acronym WIT stands for “What is this?” It is used when astronomers are not clear why these giant stars begin to flash.

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This is not the first time these phenomena have appeared, cataloged by the acronym WIT. They are so far They were explained in different ways: violent quasars, collisions of stars and novas. The team of researchers stated, in this case, that it was almost certainly an occultation.

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Something passed in front of the star, something faint, something It is more than 23 million miles thick, or about a quarter of the distance between the Earth and the Sun.

It was considered many things that could have passed in front of the star, not something random that wandered in the universe. It’s also unlikely that the massive disks of debris around white dwarfs and neutron stars caused the disappearance. According to the team of researchers, there is a chaotic cloud of gas and dusty debris around a black hole, likely a ‘black hole backup disk’., may have been the cause of this seemingly anomalous phenomenon.

The team of astronomers also identified Two other events are candidates for indexing as VVV-WIT-10 and VVV-WIT-11, suggesting that there may be more cases of these “flashing giants” to be discovered and described.

“There is definitely more to find.” confirms Lee Smith, an astronomer at the Cambridge Institute of Astronomy and first author of the study “But the challenge now is to understand what those hidden objects are and how they were surrounded by disks, despite the fact that they orbit so far from the giant star.”