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Cosmic mystery: the strange disappearance of a star that leaves astronomers on edge

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The stars are not only an object of study for astrophysics, they are an element full of romance and mystery. They appear in literary works or in the cinema, but this time, one of them has been the main protagonist for a team of experts who have seen how a huge star has disintegrated without becoming a supernova.

A star in the Kinman galaxy in the constellation Aquarius, about 75 million light-years away from Earth, has suddenly disappeared. It has been detected by a research team from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in the Chilean Atacama desert and could be a way of dying never seen before in a star turning into a black hole without first going through the supernova phase.

Between 2001 and 2011, several teams of astronomers used it as a subject of study to conclude how massive stars end their lives. According to their observations, they concluded that the star was at a late stage of evolution.

The star in question had a light approximately 2.5 million times brighter than the Sun. In 2019, the team observed that their spectra had disappeared without a trace.

“It would be very unusual for such a massive star to disappear without producing a brilliant supernova explosion,” said Andrew Allan, team leader and PhD student at Trinity College Dublin.

Their finding has been published in the article The possible disappearance of a massive star in the low metallicity galaxy PHL 293B in the Royal Astronomical Society and reproduces the theories that the researchers focus on. Based on their observations, astronomers have suggested two explanations for the star’s disappearance. For one thing, the star is believed to have become less bright and partially obscured by dust.

On the other hand, the team argues that the star may have collapsed into a black hole, without producing a supernova explosion. This would be an unusual event, as experts argue, “our current understanding of how massive stars die points to most of them ending their lives in a supernova.”

Ancient data indicated that the star of the Kinman galaxy may have been experiencing a strong period of an explosion that probably ended sometime after 2011. Despite this research, the hypotheses are unclear and future studies are needed to confirm what the true fate of that star was.

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