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)
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