Astronomers discover a blinking star close to the middle of the Milky Method
In this week’s edition of New Unexplained Astronomical Phenomena, a team of astronomers led by Dr. Leigh Smith from Cambridge found a star 100 times larger than our sun that almost disappears from the sky every few decades. They also have no idea why that is.
The star, called VVV-WIT-08, is 25,000 light years away and its brightness decreases by a factor of 30 instead of disappearing entirely. It’s not the first star to be discovered with this changing brightness pattern, but there is growing evidence that this could just be another example of a new class of stars.
UT video discussing one possible reason for dimming – transiting
The name of VVV-WIT-08 calls for an explanation. The “WIT” in the middle actually stands for “what is that”, as astronomers call stars that are difficult to classify in a certain established category.
The team, which included members from the University of Edinburgh, the University of Hertfordshire, the University of Warsaw, and the Universidad Andres Bellow in Chile, found this new variable star using the VISTA variables in the Via Lactea Survey (VVV), which the VISTA. uses telescope in Chile. Its dimming pattern was then confirmed using the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE), which showed the star was dimmed in both infrared and visible light.
The VISTA telescope in its dome at sunset. Its main mirror is 4.1 meters wide.
Credit – G. Hüdepohl / ESO.
Astronomers believe the most likely cause of this darkening process is opaque discs of dust and gas, or possibly a binary companion or planet passing in front of the star. But new explanations cannot be ruled out either. With more stars added to this new category of “blinking giants”, it is only a matter of time before more theories about what might be causing the eclipse abound. And there are so many more phenomena to discover and explanations to explore.
Cambridge – Astronomers discover a “blinking giant” near the center of the galaxy
Royal Astronomical Society – VVV-WIT-08: the giant star that blinked
Sci-News – Huge “blinking” star spotted in the central region of the Milky Way
Artist’s impression VVV-WIT-08
Photo credit: Amanda Smith