Astronomers have seen a giant’blinking’ celebrity towards the middle of the Milky Way, over 25,000 light years away.
An international group of astronomers discovered the star, VVV-WIT-08, decreasing in brightness by a factor of 30, so it nearly disappeared from the sky. While many stars change in brightness because they pulsate or are eclipsed by another star in a trading system, it’s extremely rare for a celebrity to become fainter within a span of several months then brighten again.
The investigators believe that VVV-WIT-08 may belong to a new type of’blinking giant’ binary star system, in which a giant celebrity — 100 times larger than the Sun — is eclipsed once every couple of years with an as-yet unseen orbital company. The company, which may be another star or a planet, is surrounded by an opaque disc, which covers the giant star, causing it to disappear and reappear in the skies. The analysis is published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
The discovery was led by Dr Leigh Smith from Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy, working together with scientists at the University of Edinburgh, the University of Hertfordshire, the University of Warsaw in Poland and Universidad Andres Bello in Chile.
“It’s amazing that we just observed a dark, large and elongated object pass between us and the distant star and we can only speculate what its origin is,” said co-author Dr Sergey Koposov in the University of Edinburgh.
Since the star is situated in a dense region of the Milky Way, the researchers considered whether some unidentified dark thing could have simply drifted before the giant star by chance. However, simulations revealed that there would need to become an implausibly large number of dark bodies floating around the Galaxy with this scenario to be more likely.
One other star system of this kind was understood for quite a while. The giant star Epsilon Aurigae is partially eclipsed by a huge disk of dust every 27 decades, however, just dims by roughly 50%. A second example, TYC 2505-672-1, has been discovered a Couple of Years ago, and holds the current record for the eclipsing bi