In a new study, published in the monthly communications of the Royal Astronomical Society on Tuesday, astronomers checked in on a giant star, surnamed Kinman Dwarf, in the galaxy PHL 293B, 75 million light years from Earth. The team was interested in learning more about the low metallization environment of PHL 293B and expected to see Kinman shine.
But the star was gone.
The star no longer illuminates the galaxy. In fact, it no longer illuminates anything because it is simply … gone. Although they were recently seen in 2011, when the team of scientists used the ESPRESSO tool at Chile’s Very Large Telescope, they were unable to procure the star. Using an additional tool called the X-Shooter to ascertain where the star had gone, the team was unable to find it again.
Surprisingly, however, there was no evidence that the star had become a supernova, which could have justified its disappearance. As such, the question remains: what happened to the star?
There are two hypotheses: either the star is still there, but its light is much dimmer and is obscured by a dusty cloud of debris, or the star “collapsed into a huge black hole without producing a bright supernova”.
However, the implications for such an unexpected absence are far-reaching, especially when considering whether this could occur more frequently.
As the report states: “Since most of these events in in-depth investigations will be much weaker than PHL 293B and located much further away, a detailed analysis of this object in the local universe provides an important reference point for understanding l late evolution of massive stars in low metallization environments and their remains “.
The study’s lead author, Andrew Allan, told Vice that they plan to examine the dwarf Kinman with the Hubble Space Telescope in an attempt to find evidence of the death of the monstrous star.
“Only by comparing a before and after image of the galaxy, we hope that we would be able to identify the star itself first, and therefore perhaps what happened to the star and why it disappeared,” he said.