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Vista and not vista. A team of researchers has discovered the disappearance of a star monster , 2.5 million times brighter than the Sun, located in the dwarf galaxy Kinman, 75 million light years. The absence of, detected with the Very Large Telescope (VLT) of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in the Atacama desert (Chile), may reveal a new and unusual way to die for the stars , collapsing into a black hole without before to have produced a supernova.

Image of the dwarf galaxy Kinman, also known as PHL 293B, taken po-the Hubble space telescope the NASA / ESA in 2011 – NASA, ESA / Hubble, J. Andrews (U. Arizona)

Located in the constellation of Aquarius, the dwarf galaxy Kinman is too far away for astronomers to be able to see their individual stars, but can detect the signatures of some of them. From 2001 to 2011, the light of the galaxy showed consistently evidence of which housed a star “variable luminous blue”. The stars of this type, the most luminous known, and among which are some of the most massive in the Universe, are unstable and show drastic changes from time to time in their spectra and brightness. But even with those changes, leave footprints specific that scientists can identify.

The observations also indicated that the star was in a late stage of its evolution, it was very interesting to learn more about how a star dies. But when in 2019, the researchers pointed the VLT at the distant galaxy, since they were not able to find the signatures revealing the star. “In contrast, we were surprised to discover that he had disappeared,” says Andrew Allan, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, and responsible for the study that appears in the “Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society”.

What happened? Why was not there? “It is possible that we have detected that one of the most massive stars in the local Universe is going gently into the eternal night,” said the team member Jose Groh, also of Trinity College.

The team turned to the older data, between 2002 and 2009, collected at the VLT of ESO telescopes in other locations. The comparison with the new observations was eye-opening. Old data indicated that the star in Kinman could have been experiencing a strong period of an explosion which probably ended at some point after 2011. The variables bright blues like this are prone to experience bursts giants in the course of his life, causing its rate of mass loss to fire, and its brightness increase drastically.

Converted into a black hole

based on their observations and models, astronomers have suggested two explanations for the disappearance of the star, and the lack of a supernova. The outbreak may have resulted in our protagonist being turned into a star less bright, that could also be partially hidden by the dust. Alternatively, the computer says that the star may have collapsed into a black hole without producing a supernova explosion. This would be a rare event: our current understanding of how dying massive stars suggests that the majority of them end their lives in a supernova. “If it is true -says Allan,” this would be the first direct detection of a star monster that ends with their life this way.”

The authors acknowledge that further research is warranted to confirm what was the fate of this star. The powerful Telescope Extremely Large (ELT) THAT, projected for 2025, might be able to solve this cosmic mystery.