Stars are the most massive objects in the Universe. When such a massive star vanishes without a trace, it is likely to create a fuss in the scientific world.

Vanishing Stars
Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

A paper published on Royal Astronomical Society reports that a massive star in a galaxy called PHL 293B vanished without a trace. A team led by PhD student Andrew Allan of Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland were not able to find any signs of the star when they attempted to observe it using Very Large Telescope. If correct, this is likely to be the first-ever such observation.

Generally, such massive stars get destroyed by causing a huge explosion called a supernova. These explosions can create a broad emission of signals for a considerable amount of time and can be easily detected. But, this is based on the present understanding. However, this observation didn’t comply with our understanding and hence could open a new door towards the study of the death of stars if correct.

The Anomaly in Observations Which Proved to Vanish of Star

A model of the star was used to calculate its temperature, mass loss rate and luminosity during 2001-2011. These stellar properties suggested that it was on the brink of eruption. But since 2011, no stellar signatures were received at all. Although it is 75 million light-years away, it could not have vanished without an eruption observable from Earth. So, this led to the conclusion that it has vanished.

What Actually Made Star Vanish?

The studies have not yet given us the conclusion of what has happened but there could be two possibilities.

1. It Could Have Become Obscure

The studies suggested that it was experiencing different eruptions and loss of mass during 2011. So, it is believed that this could have made it dimmer. Due to this decrease in luminosity, clouds of dust could easily make it obscure. This might be one of the reasons for such absence of stellar signatures.

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2. It Could Have Turned Into a Black Hole

On the other hand, there is a possibility that it could have turned into a black hole. Meanwhile, we have not observed the formation of the black hole in such fashion till now. If this explanation is correct, this will be the first-ever such observation. Since according to present theories, such star can collapse into a black hole by the massive eruption, this conversion without eruption is completely new. If this is the truth, it is sure to enrich our understanding of the Universe.

The actual truth will be revealed soon. We just need to have patience and of course more advanced equipment for observation. Whatever the studies reveal, they will just increase our understanding of the Universe and ourselves.


Ashwin Khadka is a Physics graduate from Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal. He is a science enthusiast, researcher and writer. Apart from writing he is also a researcher, with specialization on thin films for electrodes in solar cells.

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