A Massive Star Just Disappeared Out of Nowhere, and No One Really Knows Why

Image for representation.

Image for representation.

Big stars such as this one do not die out slowly like smaller stars.

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  • Last Updated: July 3, 2020, 3:43 PM IST

Scientists were left scratching their heads after a very massive star suddenly disappeared from view. The star was located in the Kinman Dwarf galaxy and multiple researchers have studied the star from 2001 to 2011.

However, it was no longer detectable from 2019. The disappearance of the star and its probable reason has been published in the latest edition of the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The researchers have posed two possible explanations – one that the star has experienced a “dramatic drop in luminosity” and is now hiding behind some particles, or that it has transformed into a black hole without causing a supernova explosion.

Big stars such as this one do not die out slowly like smaller stars (for example Sun) but generate supernova blasts before running out of fuel.

The study was led by PhD student Andrew Allan of Trinity College Dublin who said that if the star has actually transformed into a black hole then that would be only the second known case of a failed supernova.

The star was a luminous blue variable (LBV) located 75 million light years away in the Kinman Dwarf galaxy. The LBVs are massive stars inching towards the end of their lives. Although it was not seen because of its distance, its presence was calculated by scientists via signals and ‘stellar signatures’.

However, in 2019, when researchers used the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) ‘Very Large Telescope’ to observe the unstable star, they were in for a surprise as the star had vanished.



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