A ‘monster’ star 2 million times brighter than the sun disappears without a trace

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The star’s mysterious disappearance could hint at a new type of stellar death, writes Brandon Specktor in LiveScience, published on July 1, 2020.

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Disappearing star
An artist’s impression of the the luminous blue variable star that mysteriously vanished. (Image: © ESO/L. Calçada)

In 2019, scientists witnessed a massive star 2.5 million times brighter than the sun disappear without a trace.

Now, in a new paper published today (June 30) in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, a team of space detectives (see: astrophysicists) attempt to solve the case of the disappearing star by providing several possible explanations. Of these, one twist ending stands out: Perhaps, the researchers wrote, the massive star died and collapsed into a black hole without undergoing a supernova explosion first – a truly “unprecedented” act of stellar suicide.

“We may have detected one of the most massive stars of the local universe going gently into the night,” Jose Groh, an astronomer at Trinity College Dublin and a co-author of a new paper on the star, said in a statement.

“If true, this would be the first direct detection of such a monster star ending its life in this manner,” study lead-author Andrew Allan, also of Trinity College, said in the statement.

The star in question, located about 75 million light years away in the constellation Aquarius, was well studied between 2001 and 2011. The bloated orb was a superb example of a luminous blue variable (LBV) — a massive star approaching the end of its life and prone to unpredictable variations in brightness. Stars like this are rare, with only a handful confirmed in the universe so far. In 2019, Allan and colleagues hoped to use the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope to learn more about the distant LBV’s mysterious evolution, only to discover that the star had seemingly completely vanished from its host galaxy.

Read full article –  livescience.com

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