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Huge, blinking star spotted near galactic core

Posted on Friday, 11 June, 2021 | Comment icon 6 comments

The European Southern Observatory. Image Credit: CC BY 4.0 ESO / S. Brunier
The star, which is 100 times the size of the Sun, underwent an extended period of anomalous dimming.
Situated 25,000 light years away near the center of the Milky Way galaxy, this enormous star attracted the attention of astronomers when it was observed dimming by as much as 97% over the course of several hundred days before slowly returning to its original brightness.

The phenomenon was first picked up by the Vista telescope at the European Southern Observatory in Chile - a platform that has spent the last decade observing over a billion stars for signs of variable brightness.

When it finds something, the candidate stars are dubbed WIT or "what is this?" objects.

The newly discovered dimming was observed in a star catchily named VVV-WIT-08.
So what is the explanation for this phenomenon ?

In this case, astronomers believe that the dimming was most likely caused by a large disc of opaque dust that gradually moved in front of the star, effectively blocking it from view.

When the disc started to move away, the star's brightness increased again.

The disc itself is thought to be tilted in such a way so as to appear elliptical from an observer on the Earth, with a radius of approximately 0.25 AU. (1 AU = distance from the Earth to the Sun.)

It is thought that the disc could pass in front of the star again within the next 20 to 200 years.

Source: The Guardian | Comments (6)

Tags: Star, Galaxy, Milky Way

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by DreadLordAvatar on 11 June, 2021, 14:48
Dyson sphere. We are not alone.
Comment icon #2 Posted by Abramelin on 11 June, 2021, 16:59
Faulty measurements. A glitch.  
Comment icon #3 Posted by Tom1200 on 11 June, 2021, 20:20
They're 25,000 lightyears away.  We're effectively alone... I love the last line: "It is thought that the disc could pass in front of the star again within the next 20 to 200 years."  An utterly worthless 'prediction' based on no available evidence that adds nothing to the story.  I'll add my own pointless contribution: "It is thought a different disc could pass in front of the star again within the next 20 to 200 years."  There - I'm now an astrophysicist!
Comment icon #4 Posted by Earl.Of.Trumps on 12 June, 2021, 5:27
Tell us how you really feel, @Tom1200 
Comment icon #5 Posted by pallidin on 12 June, 2021, 6:05
If nothing else exists in this entire, incredibly vast universe, than we, by quasi-extension, do not exist.
Comment icon #6 Posted by Ell on 12 June, 2021, 8:19
The disk explanation appears contrived. I do not believe it.   That said, I cannot provide a more probable explanation for 97% of dimming during several hundreds of days.   It is an interesting phenomenon. :-) Hm, the star may have puffed out a dense sphere of dust during a hundred days, blocking its light. As the sphere expanded during the next hundred days it became transparent to the star's light again. Plausible?

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