Mystery object blotted out a giant star for 200 days

Debra

Dagobah Resident
I managed to notice this on the scrolling news feed, on the 15th of June.
Just saw it once.

Perhaps this elusive something, that was observed back in 2012, had something to do with the Dark Star Companion of our Sun?
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Original Source- National Geographic

"Stars may twinkle, but they don’t just vanish—so when a distant, giant star pulled a disappearing act for about 200 days, it took astronomers by surprise.

Now, roughly a decade later, astronomers have sifted through a variety of possible explanations—and they still have no idea what’s responsible for blotting out nearly all of the star’s light.


Described in a new study in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, some of the theories still on the table rely on as-yet unobserved phenomena, such as a dark disk of material orbiting a nearby black hole, or undiscovered, dust-enshrouded companion stars. But over 17 years of observations, the star has only gone dark once, in 2012, making it more difficult for teams to nail down a plausible culprit.

It’s clear that whatever object eclipsed the distant star is huge—much bigger than the star itself. It also appeared to be completely opaque, blocking much of the starlight entirely, and it seemed to have a hard edge.

“The degree of drop in brightness is really impressive,” says Emily Levesque of the University of Washington, who studies massive stars and wasn’t involved in the observations. “It'll be cool to see more observations of this star, of whatever caused this, and to piece together how something like this happened.”

[...]
“It’s unusual for a star to dim in brightness by this much and for this long, and it immediately caught my eye as something unusual,” says study author Leigh Smith, an astronomer at the University of Cambridge.

Smith spotted the odd eclipse while he was sifting through data from the VISTA Variables in the Via Lactea, or VVV, survey. This project, which draws its name from the Latin for “milky way,” monitors the southern sky for variable stars in the galaxy’s disk.

The observation earned the star a special designation: WIT, or “What is this?,” an acronym that astronomers with the VVV project use to categorize curious objects. The star became known as VVV-WIT-08, and the team flagged it for follow-up work. Based on early observations, they estimated that the star was at least 25,000 light-years away in the direction of the galactic bulge, and that it was an eight-billion-year-old giant some 100 times larger than our sun, but smoldering at cooler temperatures.

During the first half of 2012, the star almost completely disappeared, losing 97 percent of its brightness. Data suggested that whatever had caused such a precipitous plunge was opaque, uniformly obscuring all visible and infrared wavelengths of light throughout the entire eclipse.

“That’s very hard to understand,” says Jason Wright of Pennsylvania State University, who wasn’t involved in the observations. “It’s something bigger than the star that’s completely opaque, and there aren’t many things that do that.”
 

Niall

Administrator
Administrator
Moderator
FOTCM Member
The answer is in the article: it was a 'puff of dust' - yet you're picking and bolding every sensational word in the article, but that.
The only reference to 'dust' in the article is this one:

...some of the theories still on the table rely on as-yet unobserved phenomena, such as a dark disk of material orbiting a nearby black hole, or undiscovered, dust-enshrouded companion stars.
That cannot possibly be construed as 'the answer'. Your reply to Debra is not only rude and obtuse, it's wrong. Maybe read others' posts first before replying?
 

Debra

Dagobah Resident
I find your statement rather interesting, considering the discussion regarding your reading and comprehension levels, if I recall, it is on the thread regarding Laura's latest book!
The answer is in the article: it was a 'puff of dust' - yet you're picking and bolding every sensational word in the article, but that.
It might be that you read to quickly?
If you really take a bit more time when reading articles and books with lots of different dates and names, you won't get so mixed up maybe?

Look at the article again, read a bit more slowly, and you will see that the term "puff of dust" is regarding another star, that happened in 2015:

"Perhaps even more famously, in 2015, astronomers caught a star flickering so oddly that some scientists considered the possibility its light was being blocked by an orbiting alien megastructure. The allure of alien technologies launched the star—now known as Tabby’s Star—into the limelight for years, but observations in 2018 revealed that the culprit was nothing more than dust."

Hope that explains things, from my observations!
 

mbww

Jedi
The only reference to 'dust' in the article is this one:

That cannot possibly be construed as 'the answer'. Your reply to Debra is not only rude and obtuse, it's wrong. Maybe read others' posts first before replying?

It's a poorly written article, my answer as I quoted it is buried in the 1st paragraph under the 2nd title, look closer in the linked article, and don't jump to labels and characterizations so easily. My answer was a simple one-liner, without any connotation.

Here's another version of the same story,
 

Zar

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
It's a poorly written article, my answer as I quoted it is buried in the 1st paragraph under the 2nd title, look closer in the linked article, and don't jump to labels and characterizations so easily. My answer was a simple one-liner, without any connotation.

Here's another version of the same story,

You must be referring to this.
Giant stars acting strange

The galaxy is full of weirdly behaving stars, many of which naturally fluctuate in brightness. One of these variable stars, named Betelgeuse, dramatically dimmed in 2019, sparking speculation that it might be about to explode. (It did not.) Instead, the red supergiant at Orion’s shoulder returned to its normal brightness, and astronomers are now attributing its fainting spell to a cool spot in its southern hemisphere and a puff of dust.


Perhaps even more famously, in 2015, astronomers caught a star flickering so oddly that some scientists considered the possibility its light was being blocked by an orbiting alien megastructure. The allure of alien technologies launched the star—now known as Tabby’s Star—into the limelight for years, but observations in 2018 revealed that the culprit was nothing more than dust.

Notice how this is making an example about an entire different star and stating that this new phenomena does not appear to be the same as a puff of dust. But hey if you want to pretend that it's the authors fault for writing so poorly, then by all means.
 

XPan

The Living Force
Question

If the star lost 97% of it’s original brightness… what would be the equivalent in how many (star) magnitudes it dimmed ?

i get so confused by the different ways of how brightness of stars can be expressed when compared to something else (especially in percentage)…. I am somewhat familiar with star magnitudes from childhood astronomy. But the other units just get me totally lost (and i often miss the obvious - and I don’t know to express anything math related in english)

I only remember that 1 magnitude brighter equals to 2.5 something. A star that is 2 magnitudes brighter is 2.5x2.5 brighter = 6.25 times.

But how do i express that in percentage ?
just half each unite until i reach down to 3% ? Like 100 goes 50, 25, 12.5, 6.25, 3.125 ?

Or do i divide 100 through 3 and i get 33 times. That would then give me almost 3 magnitude weaker star ?

or is it 4 star magnitudes difference, because 2.5x2.5x2.5x2.5 is 97 times brighter ?

:nuts::umm: *eeeeep*

“Star A Is x times brighter than star y”
“Star A is x percent brighter than star y”
“Star A is x magnitudes brighter than star y”

The reason why I ask is because Betelgeuse had dropped from +0.3 to +1.8M - caused what is believed a dust cloud. So how does this other elusive star’s drop in brightness compare to the drop observed in Betelgeuse ? That is what started my brain - with the result of just two peas bouncing aimlessly around … :scared:
 

mbww

Jedi
You must be referring to this.
...
Notice how this is making an example about an entire different star and stating that this new phenomena does not appear to be the same as a puff of dust. But hey if you want to pretend that it's the authors fault for writing so poorly, then by all means.
Again, it’s a typical case of burying the lede type of article, and the ‘puff of dust’ does refer to Bettlegeuse, as you can read from the quoted paragraph, which is what the article and title are about. The other two examples amalgamated in the story, 2015 and 2012 (Tabby Star) are just “context” or “related” but are not the subject of this story.

The gist of this story stripped of any rehashing is that astronomers noticed the Betlegeuse dimming in 2019 and started thinking that it had exploded or something. Betlegeuse is one of just a few significant red stars that are visible to us (naked eye) and likely to explode (as in supernovae) in the next 100,000 years or so. That’s why it caught the attention. Turns out it was just an exhaust of gas from its surface that blocked its surface light, like a volcano smoke.

As information business and the internets work today, it generally starts with a scientific observation or discovery made by an institution usually announced publicly or disseminated in a scientific paper (1st hand) which is reported by a specialized publication such as National Geographic or Nature (2nd hand), and then carried over by mainstream media such as (Reuters or NY Times) in a bit more layman’s terms (3nd hand), and from there on is everyone’s playground to report it and distort it and make whatever they want of it (4th hand)
As a good practice, try to look for the more prime tier along the chain, here’s the original source (1st tier).

https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/1538-4357/aba516
 

Zar

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Here is the preprint of the paper they refer to: https://arxiv.org/pdf/2106.05300.pdf
Again, it’s a typical case of burying the lede type of article, and the ‘puff of dust’ does refer to Bettlegeuse, as you can read from the quoted paragraph, which is what the article and title are about. The other two examples amalgamated in the story, 2015 and 2012 (Tabby Star) are just “context” or “related” but are not the subject of this story.

The gist of this story stripped of any rehashing is that astronomers noticed the Betlegeuse dimming in 2019 and started thinking that it had exploded or something. Betlegeuse is one of just a few significant red stars that are visible to us (naked eye) and likely to explode (as in supernovae) in the next 100,000 years or so. That’s why it caught the attention. Turns out it was just an exhaust of gas from its surface that blocked its surface light, like a volcano smoke.

As information business and the internets work today, it generally starts with a scientific observation or discovery made by an institution usually announced publicly or disseminated in a scientific paper (1st hand) which is reported by a specialized publication such as National Geographic or Nature (2nd hand), and then carried over by mainstream media such as (Reuters or NY Times) in a bit more layman’s terms (3nd hand), and from there on is everyone’s playground to report it and distort it and make whatever they want of it (4th hand)
As a good practice, try to look for the more prime tier along the chain, here’s the original source (1st tier).

https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/1538-4357/aba516

You may be right, I honestly don't have the time nor the brain juice to dissect all this data at this time. I guess the only thing that would have helped is if you initially tried to explain your answer to help clarify things, instead of how you responded to debra's initial post.
 
Having watched a number of such articles, including the recent one about a star “blinking”, I am starting to pay credence to the SuspiciousObservers.com concept that the “galactic wave” is carrying with it a payload of dust that can temporarily “dim” a star, before the star ”throws it off” as a micro-nova.

It does make sense…

The SuspiciousObservers folks do seem to be trying to financialize this concept, but the basic principle does appear sound.
 

Candice

Jedi
Again, it’s a typical case of burying the lede type of article, and the ‘puff of dust’ does refer to Bettlegeuse, as you can read from the quoted paragraph, which is what the article and title are about. The other two examples amalgamated in the story, 2015 and 2012 (Tabby Star) are just “context” or “related” but are not the subject of this story.
The star the original post is referring to is known as VVV-WIT-08, it’s not Betelgeuse.

Why do you keep referring to Betelgeuse which had a dimming event in 2019? When the original post is referring to a star named VVV-WIT-08 that had a dimming event in 2012?

You appear to have also got Tabby’s star (dimming event in 2015) confused with VVV-WIT-08 (2012).

From Wikipedia I found the following interesting excerpt about VVV-WIT-08.
From 2010 to 2018, the star dimmed and brightened irregularly (v~14.35 – 16.164),[1]and seemed similar to Tabby's star, except the light from VVV-WIT-07 dimmed by up to 80 percent, while Tabby’s star faded by only about 20 percent.[8] Another star, J1407, however, has been found to have dimmed by up to 95%, which may be more similar to the light curve presented by VVV-WIT-07.[8]Nonetheless, according to ESO astronomer Valentin Ivanov, "A key word that could be used to describe our finding [of VVV-WIT-07] is extreme. In every aspect ... We have identified a system that challenges the imagination even more than usual, because it is so unlike our own planetary system."[3]

Summary:

1. Tabby’s Star
- Dimming first observed in 1890 Source
- Became a big story in 2015
- Hypothesis for dimming (Wikipedia ):
Several hypotheses have been proposed to explain the star's large irregular changes in brightness as measured by its light curve, but none to date fully explain all aspects of the curve.
However the most likely hypothesis is dimming due to dust.

2. Betelgeuse
- Dimming observed Nov 2019 - March 2020
- Hypothesis for dimming: dust
Source

3. VVV-WIT-08
- From 2010 to 2018, the star dimmed and brightened irregularly.
- Minimum flux occurred in April 2012 and the total event duration was a few hundred days.
- Hypothesis for dimming: not yet determined
Source

So @mbww it appears you have either purposefully muddied the waters of this discussion or your reading comprehension skills are indeed in need of an overhaul.
 

Candice

Jedi
3. VVV-WIT-08
- From 2010 to 2018, the star dimmed and brightened irregularly.
- Minimum flux occurred in April 2012 and the total event duration was a few hundred days.
- Hypothesis for dimming: not yet determined
Source
I apologize, I appear to have gotten VVV-WIT-07 Source and VVV-WIT-08 Source mixed up. The Wikipedia excerpt is referring to VVV-WIT-07 and the original post is referring to VVV-WIT-08.

It appears my own reading comprehension may need an overhaul 😆.
 
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Alejo

Ambassador
Ambassador
FOTCM Member
It's a poorly written article, my answer as I quoted it is buried in the 1st paragraph under the 2nd title, look closer in the linked article, and don't jump to labels and characterizations so easily. My answer was a simple one-liner, without any connotation.
Exactly, your answer... while in the article it is still but a possibility, and for someone asking someone else not to jump to labels and characterizations, you had no issue implying Debra was a sensationalist for not interpreting the article posted the way you would have.
 

Candice

Jedi
Edited Summary:

1. Tabby’s Star
- Dimming first observed in 1890 Source
- Became a big story in 2015
- Hypothesis for dimming (Wikipedia ):
Several hypotheses have been proposed to explain the star's large irregular changes in brightness as measured by its light curve, but none to date fully explain all aspects of the curve.
However the most likely hypothesis is dimming due to dust.

2. Betelgeuse
- Dimming observed Nov 2019 - March 2020
- Hypothesis for dimming: dust
Source

3. VVV-WIT-07
- Deep eclipse in 2012 July Source
- Hypothesis for dimming: not yet determined Source

4. VVV-WIT-08
- Minimum flux occurred in 2012 April and the total event duration was a few hundred days.
- Hypothesis for dimming: not yet determined Source
 
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