An artist’s impression of a luminous blue variable in a remote dwarf galaxy before its recently discovered disappearance. Image: ESO/L. Calçada
Can a massive star at the end of its life collapse into a black hole without first exploding in a supernova blast? That’s at least one explanation for the apparent disappearance of a star 2.5 million times brighter than the sun in a dwarf galaxy 75 million light years away.
“If true,” said Andrew Allan, a Ph.D. student at Trinity College in Dublin, “this would be the first direct detection of such a monster star ending its life in this manner.””
But it’s also possible the presumed luminous blue variable star, located in the Kinman Dwarf galaxy, dimmed after a strong outburst and became partially obscured by dust.
Observations of the dwarf galaxy between 2001 and 2011 indicated the presence of a massive star nearing the end of its life. While individual stars in the galaxy could not be resolved, spectral data indicated the presence of a luminous blue variable, a type of star that is unstable, occasionally exhibiting dramatic shifts in their spectra and luminosity.
Allan and his colleagues in Chile, Ireland and the United States wanted to ...