A massive star just vanished without a trace and astronomers don’t know why
Of all the things you would expect to lose sight of, a star 100 times larger than our sun is probably not the best. Nevertheless, scientists are amazed at the realization that a massive star has somehow disappeared into nothing without an explanation.
In a new study published Tuesday in the Royal Astronomical Society’s Monthly Notices, astronomers have studied a giant star nicknamed Kinman Dwarf in the PHL 293B galaxy, 75 million light-years from Earth. The team was interested in learning more about the PHL 293B’s low-metallic environment and expected Kinman to shine away.
But the star was gone.
The star no longer illuminates the galaxy. In fact, nothing lights up at all because it’s just … gone. Although the team of scientists was last seen in 2011 using the ESPRESSO instrument on the Chilean Very Large Telescope, it was unable to obtain the star. With an additional instrument called the X-Shooter, the team was able to determine where the star had gone and could not find it again.
Mysteriously, however, there was no evidence that the star had become a supernova, which could be responsible for its disappearance. As such, the question remains: what happened to the star?
There are two hypotheses: Either the star is still there, but its light is much weaker and it is covered by a dusty cloud of debris, or the star “collapsed into a massive black hole without creating a bright supernova”.
In both cases, the effects of such an unexpected absence are far-reaching – especially if you are considering whether this could occur more frequently.
The report states: “Given that the majority of these deep-sea events will be much weaker than PHL 293B and much further away, detailed analysis of this object in the local universe provides an important yardstick for understanding the late development of massive Stars in low-metallic environments and their remains. “
The study’s lead author, Andrew Allan, told Vice that they plan to use the Hubble space telescope to investigate the Kinman dwarf to find evidence of the monster star’s death.
“If we compare only a before and after image of the galaxy, we hope we can find out first the star itself and then maybe what happened to the star and why it disappeared,” he said.