Astronomers baffled by unexplained disappearance of massive star

by Peter Heck · Jun 30th, 2020 10:38 am

Last Updated Jul 2nd, 2020 at 10:05 am

Scientists are trying to figure out what happened to a massive star that once seemed to illuminate its entire host galaxy but now appears to be gone.

Ten years ago, a huge star estimated at 100 times the size of Earth's sun shone brightly in the middle of the Kinman Dwarf galaxy, approximately 75 million light years away from Earth. Astronomers were perplexed when they recently went back to view the galaxy and noticed the giant star had vanished.

Publishing in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, scientists questioned whether the star disappeared into a black hole or perhaps vanished in a cloud of dust.

"We were quite surprised when we couldn't find the star," said lead author Andrew Allan, a PhD student at Trinity College Dublin. "It is a very extreme star, and it has quite a strong wind, so we can distinguish it from the galaxy. That's what we couldn't see in the newer observations."

What is most peculiar is that there was no evidence of the star going supernova, the explosive death stage of a large star. Astronomers believe that leaves the possibility that the star remains but is shrouded in dust from its own massive bursts or that it became a so-called "failed supernova" and disappeared into a black hole without notice.


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