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Space & Astronomy

Huge, blinking star spotted near galactic core

By T.K. Randall
June 11, 2021 · Comment icon 8 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 (8)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by DreadLordAvatar 3 years ago
Dyson sphere. We are not alone.
Comment icon #2 Posted by Abramelin 3 years ago
Faulty measurements. A glitch.  
Comment icon #3 Posted by Tom1200 3 years ago
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 3 years ago
Tell us how you really feel, @Tom1200 
Comment icon #5 Posted by pallidin 3 years ago
If nothing else exists in this entire, incredibly vast universe, than we, by quasi-extension, do not exist.
Comment icon #6 Posted by Ell 3 years ago
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?
Comment icon #7 Posted by Eldorado 3 years ago
Stars may twinkle, but they don’t just vanish—so when a distant, giant star pulled a disappearing act for about 200 days, it took astronomers by surprise. Now, roughly a decade later, astronomers have sifted through a variety of possible explanations—and they still have no idea what’s responsible for blotting out nearly all of the star’s light. Described in a new study in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, some of the theories still on the table rely on as-yet unobserved phenomena, such as a dark disk of material orbiting a nearby black hole, or undiscovered, dus... [More]
Comment icon #8 Posted by Essan 3 years ago
I think that it's very possible that the dimming of Betelgeuse may be due to the  Great Collapsing Hrung Disaster Obviously if anyone knew what a Hrung was and why it should choose to collapse on Betelguese VII we would know for sure.  

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