Astronomers bewildered by massive star disappearing under their eyes


EXCERPTS: Astronomers have been tracking the luminous blue variable star located in the Kinman Dwarf galaxy since 2001. The extremely massive star was of particular interest because scientists still don’t know much about how such objects behave towards the end of their lifetimes, especially in metal-poor environments such as the Kinman Dwarf galaxy.

Andrew Allan of Trinity College Dublin, along with colleagues from Chile and the US, pointed ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile’s Atacama Desert towards the distant galaxy in 2019 for a new survey. Much to their surprise, the star’s signal vanished. How could such a luminous star, which was about 2.5 million times brighter than the sun, simply disappear? That’s still a mystery ... Based on their observations, the researchers think that there are only two plausible explanations for the star’s sudden disappearance and lack of a supernova.

In one scenario, the outburst may have ‘downgraded’ the luminous blue variable star into a less bright star, whose signature may be partly obstructed by dust.

The second, more exciting, explanation is that the star could have simply collapsed into a black hole. Massive stars usually end their life cycle by exploding into a supernova. What’s left of the star either turns into a neutron star or a black hole. However, the absence of a supernova in such cases is almost unprecedented... (MORE - details)

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