Giant blinking star spotted near center of Milky Way galaxy
June 11, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.
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A giant star is blinking near the center of our Milky Way galaxy, according to new observations by astronomers. The star is located more than 25,000 light-years away from Earth.
(CNN)A giant star is blinking near the center of our Milky Way galaxy like a stellar beacon, according to new observations by astronomers.
Known as VVV-WIT-08, the star dimmed so much that it almost disappeared from view as astronomers observed it over time.
The observation of this star has led researchers to believe that it may belong to a new class: a "blinking giant" binary star system.
This class includes giant stars a hundred times larger than our sun being eclipsed every few decades or so by an unseen companion, which could be a planet or another star.
This companion is likely surrounded by a disk of material that cloaks the giant star, causing the blinking pattern witnessed by astronomers.
"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 Sergey Koposov, study coauthor and reader in observational astronomy at the University of Edinburgh, in a statement.
At first, the researchers speculated that an unknown dark object passed in front of the giant star, but that would only be possible if there were a large number of these objects in the galaxy, which is unlikely.
A study of other such unique star systems including giant stars that dim and brighten, or showcase this blinking pattern, helped the researchers determine that a new class of blinking giant stars may exist and need to be investigated.
Astronomers will continue to search for more of these giant blinking star systems to learn more about them.
"There are certainly more to be found, but the challenge now is in figuring out what the hidden companions are, and how they came to be surrounded by discs, despite orbiting so far from the giant star," said Leigh Smith, discovery lead and research associate in the University of Cambridge's Institute of Astronomy, in a statement.