An unusually bright star has gone missing, in the most unusual way.
An object inside the Kinman dwarf galaxy has disappeared from view, according to new research published today in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. This massive and exceptionally bright blue star was hypothesized to exist based on astronomical observations made between 2001 and 2011, but as of 2019, it is no longer detectable.
The authors of the study, led by PhD student Andrew Allan of Trinity College Dublin, have conjured two possible explanations: Either the star has experienced a dramatic drop in luminosity and is now partially hiding behind some dust, or it transformed into a black hole without sparking a supernova explosion. If it’s the latter, it would represent just the second known failed supernova.
The Kinman dwarf galaxy is located 75 million light-years from Earth, so it’s not close by any means.
Astronomers cannot discern individual stars owing to the tremendous distances involved, but the hypothesized star in question is a luminous blue variable (LBV), which is detectable at extreme distances.
LBVs are massive and unpredictable stars at the end of their lives. The variable nature of this star, through its dramatic shifts in spectra and brightness, can be spotted from Earth. Incredibly, this suspected star is 2.5 million times brighter than our Sun.