There is something strange near the galactic center.
About 25,000 light-years from Earth, astronomers discovered a strange star that nearly disappeared from existence a few months before reappearing.
Astronomers believe that the star, called VVV-WIT-08, may belong to a new class of stars – giant beasts over 100 times the Sun, which are eclipsed by a mysterious orbital body once every few decades.
The stars with specific dimming signatures are endless charm. Although space is mostly relatively empty, of course, with all the things there, some of it will be arranged in such a way that the stars are eclipsed from our terrestrial perspective from time to time.
It is not always easy to say what these things are. A giant planet? Cosmic dust? Debris from a destroyed object? A space dragon?
The case of VVV-WIT-08 is unpleasant. Although other stars have shown similar incidents of light, none have been as deep. The culprit, astronomers say, could be another star or planet surrounded by a thick, opaque disk of dust in long orbit around VVV-WIT-08, which completely covers the star when it passes before our eyes.
The model of an orbital satellite with a giant disk is not without precedent. One well-known, well-known example is Epsilon Aurigae, a supergiant star with a disk-covered satellite in 27-year orbit that eclipses the star by about 50% for up to 730 days.
Then there’s the TYC 2505-672-1 system, a red giant star with a dusty satellite in a 69-year orbit that eclipses the star for a period of 3.5 years.
The study that took VVV-WIT-08 (“WIT” means “what is this?” Because astronomers are great ones), the variable VISTA in the Via Lactea study (VVV), took several other candidates who seemed to exhibit the same behavior. As the data for these stars are not as complete as the data for VVV-WIT-08, they are yet to be described.
However, we know that the peculiarity of the star is not a mistake. The eclipse is also being observed by the optical gravity objectification experiment using the Warsaw Telescope in Chile, which means that this is not a bug (although it should be a very strange kind of bug).
The data show that the eclipse event lasted about 200 days, with an almost symmetrical light curve, extinguishing the star’s light by up to 97 percent. The density of objects needed in this area of space to randomly align two random bodies is much higher than observed, so the team believes that the two objects are gravitationally connected.
The orbital period is unknown, but according to mathematical modeling it must be at least a few decades.
And the discovery suggests that such systems may not be so unusual.
“There is certainly more to be found, but the challenge now is to understand what the hidden satellites are and how they were surrounded by disks, even though they revolve so far from the giant star,” said astronomer Lee Smith of the University of Cambridge.
“That way we could learn something new about how these types of systems are evolving.”
The study was published in Monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.