back to article Boffins baffled as supergiant star just vanishes – either it partially blew itself apart or quietly turned into a black hole

Astronomers are on the hunt for a rare gigantic star located 75 million light years away that seems to have disappeared after nearly 20 years of observations. Scientists, led by Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, wanted to find out what happens during the final evolution stages of massive stars. They settled on what they …

  1. Spherical Cow Bronze badge
    Joke

    Did they forget to take the lens cap off the telescope? I hate it when I do that.

    1. b0llchit
      Coat

      Nah, somebody forget to pay the rent and the power was turned off. Or, the inhabitants of that galaxy's corner were tired of the prying eyes and pulled the curtains.

      Surely, an (any) alien explanation is more plausible than the obvious. The question is, when will we pull the curtains? All those eyes looking down on us. Have those aliens no respect for privacy?

      1. Kibble 2

        Privacy?

        With all the stories of kidnappings and probings, one would think not.

        1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
          Alien

          Re: Privacy?

          This is the voice of the Mysterons, we don't probe humans, we have no idea where you have been!

      2. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Not heard of the Dogging Star then?

      3. HildyJ Silver badge
        Devil

        Clearly

        Alien hackers hit the star with ransomware and when they didn't pay up its output was deleted.

    2. DJV Silver badge

      So that's where Davros went to test his reality bomb...

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Coat

        Or its Skaro's sun, which Davros was suckered into blowing up by The Hand Of Omega.

        Icon - The Seventh Doctor looking for his spoons.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      We need to know if Trurl and Klapaucius were seen in the vicinity a few years back. Perhaps they were re-running the Machine that could do Anything, for lulz.

      1. Danny Boyd Bronze badge

        Receive an upvote for Stanislaw Lem reference.

  2. Joe W Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Destroyed by the Inhibitors?

    Another possibility ;)

    1. Kane Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: Destroyed by the Inhibitors?

      Greenflies.

  3. Winkypop Silver badge
    Alien

    Pandora's Star!

    A Peter F Hamilton sci fi masterpiece

    1. The Brave Sir Robin

      Re: Pandora's Star!

      Got to keep Morning Light Mountain locked up. Luckily we haven't invented wormhole technology yet.

  4. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
    Alien

    Maybe someone's lashed up a dyson sphere around it?

    1. macjules Silver badge
      Coat

      That would be a pretty big vacuum (cleaner).

    2. tfb Silver badge
      Boffin

      That's the same as the 'dust' scenario. If it's happened, you still see it, just in IR, so they're planning to look in IR I think. If it's done the direct-collapse thing then there won't be IR as the resulting object is not luminous, unless it starts accreting crud, when it would be very luminous, but not in IR.

      I bet everyone is hoping they've seen a direct collapse!

      (I think I am using 'direct collapse' wrong here: that's collapse to BH without a star, but I haven't time to edit it.)

      1. You aint sin me, roit Silver badge
        Coat

        That's why you want a double-glazed Dyson sphere, so none of the heat escapes.

        Mine's the one with the Everest flier in the pocket...

        1. tfb Silver badge

          That has the same problem that conservatories have: you fry!

          1. Steve K Silver badge

            Open a window

            Open a window

            1. tfb Silver badge

              Re: Open a window

              Then you see it again.

              Unless ... the window is on the other side. Perhaps they know about us and are hiding!

              1. handle handle

                Re: Open a window

                That would explain pulsars! The sphere is rotating, so we just catch the burst when it's pointed our direction.

      2. tony72

        That's the same as the 'dust' scenario. If it's happened, you still see it, just in IR

        That assumes that all the energy captured by the Dyson sphere is ultimately used within the Dyson sphere, ending up as heat. However if for example you built the Dyson sphere in order to create Kugelblitzes* to power interstellar craft, then most of the energy would ultimately leave the sphere along with the spacecraft in question.

        *A Kugelblitz is a black hole formed entirely out of light, and is considered as a possibility for powering far future interstellar craft. You would need a lot of energy to create a Kugelblitz big enough to power a useful spaceship, as in capturing the entire output of the sun for some months or years, so creating them is one possible motivation for building a Dyson sphere (or swarm or whatever) in the first place.

        1. tfb Silver badge
          Boffin

          Pretty sure that thermodynamics says you'll still see it. On the other hand if you're making a Kugelblitz you have to deal with the thermodynamics of that, I suppose. I'd have to think about that: I suspect the only way to do it is to make the sphere be completely reflective inside and then handle the light somehow.

          But in the real world you'd see it.

      3. hoola Bronze badge

        Maybe I am wrong but if it collapsed, does that not spew out gravitational waves or a huge pulse of X-Ray?

        If it has collapsed into a black hole then one would assume that light from more distant stars will now be bent. If it just disappeared then theoretically there should now be new things visible behind it. This of course is possibly beyond the observing power and instrument resolution we have.

        1. tfb Silver badge

          It would certainly be interesting if it was visible by lensing. It certainly should be in theory and we know where it is so we should be able to look. That's a clever idea I think.

  5. Chris G Silver badge

    All the locals have emigrated, the last one out remembered to turn the light out.

    I am no astronomer but if the star has collapsed directly into a black hole, wouldn't that produce a burst of X ray energy?

    I seem to remember reading something along those lines.

    1. Martin Howe
      Boffin

      The x-ray energy comes from interaction between the rebounding inner shell and the outer shell; in a sufficiently massive star, the gravity swallows up the entire star (or most of it) before that can happen.

      More info here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamma-ray_burst

    2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      A burst of energy occurs in some cases but not others, depending on mass and composition: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supernova#Core_collapse

      1. bpfh Silver badge
        Boffin

        This seems logical

        It's a balancing act between mass and gravity pulling in, and radiation pressure pushing out. I would have thought If the star has enough mass, but did not get to fusing iron in the core, at some point, gravity takes over and the star could sort of do an oozlum bird and disappear up it's own singularity as gravity wins over, whatever the actual current composition of the star? I have no idea, I've watched too much star trek and not enough quantum physics.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Always a simple explanation

    It was the target of a sun dive at the end of a Disaster Area concert.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Always a simple explanation

      One that must have gone wrong, as sundives are done to create a spectacular finale to the gig. Shows that even their, no doubt well-paid, stage technicians can occasionally miscalculate.

  7. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Holmes

    Professor Moriarty

    As I was skimming through the article, I read "Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society " as "Moriarty..."

  8. revenant Silver badge

    Job done

    Someone finally finished printing the 9 billion names of God.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: Job done

      Probably not been using an HP inkjet then; it would have jammed at least twice before the cartridges it came with ran out, and after the second set and five more jams some flimsy but essential part would have snapped, rendering the printer useless before even 9000 names had been printed.

      Probably a Printronix belt printer that someone kept feeding boxes of greenbar, and fresh ink ribbons.

    2. Lee T
      Alert

      Re: Job done

      "Overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out."

      is one of the more terrifying final lines of a story I've ever read :P

  9. nagyeger
    Coat

    Holiday season

    It's just nipped off for a quick trip to the Costa-Brava, after getting a really good last-minute deal.

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Re: Holiday season

      Costa del Sol still in lockdown?

  10. pop_corn

    “Lost a [star] Master Obi-Wan has. How embarrassing.” - Yoda

  11. Antonius_Prime
    Joke

    Have to love the ESO's naming conventions...

    They used the Very Large Telescope

    Then; "ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope planned to begin operation in 2025"

    I can only hope the next one after that is the "F***ing Enourmous Telescope"...

    1. tfb Silver badge
      Terminator

      Re: Have to love the ESO's naming conventions...

      There was a plan, which I think was abandoned in favour of the ELT, for something called OWL: the Overwhelmingly Large Telescope. So yes, the FET is possible ('fiercely enormous telescope' will be the official name perhaps).

      1. Headless Roland
        Facepalm

        Re: Have to love the ESO's naming conventions...

        Having consulted my thesaurus and drawn a blank, how about the Frankly Elephantine Telescope? What this place needs is a weak sauce icon..

    2. Snowy
      Joke

      Re: Have to love the ESO's naming conventions...

      Maybe something a little sillier QED Quite Enormous Device :)

  12. xyz

    People will....

    Nick anything

  13. TeeCee Gold badge
    Alien

    Quick, change the bulb before the Earthlings noti....Ah.....Bollocks.

  14. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Meanwhile closer to Earth...

    NASA have released "A Decade of Sun", images captures by the Solar Dynamics Observatory.

    This 10-year time lapse showcases photos taken at a wavelength of 17.1 nanometers, which is an extreme ultraviolet wavelength that shows the Sun’s outermost atmospheric layer — the corona.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3QQQu7QLoM

    1. Graham Cunningham

      Re: Meanwhile closer to Earth...

      Oh wow. And props to the guys who spotted Venus @ 12:24 and all the guys who labelled the solar eclipses. I wonder whether Trump / Putin / Xi get a sense of Total Perspective when they see this?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Meanwhile closer to Earth...

      Watching the magnetic field loops forming and breaking is worrying enough when you consider how big they are and the energies involved and realise that they are minute on stellar scales.

  15. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Coat

    Two alternative options

    1) a total existence failure due to misunderstanding of improbability physics

    2) someone managed to set up a really big SEP field

    I'd better be going. Doffs hat (grey Tilley once more) to the late, great Douglas Adams

    1. roytrubshaw
      Facepalm

      Re: Two alternative options

      Or

      3) the Vogons demolished it to make way for a hyperspace bypass

      Where are the "Beware of the Leopard" signs when you need one?

      Has it really been over 19 years?

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Two alternative options

        Actually its now 42 years.

    2. spold Silver badge

      Re: Two alternative options

      ...no Pag's fault again - Slo-Time envelope.

      Nice game of Cricket anyone?

  16. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    Alien

    You idiot!

    Move the ship! We're blocking one of the start they're looking at. The'll see us coming.

  17. whitepines Silver badge

    "The stars are going out". Something amiss in the Medusa Cascade?

    Fitting somehow for 2020.

  18. Blofeld's Cat Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Whoops ...

    I expect it's just the galactic equivalent of someone switching off and scrapping that dusty old modem they found in the back of a cupboard...

    "I'm sorry. I was just tidying up and I didn't know anyone was still using it."

  19. Trigonoceps occipitalis

    Solar Help Desk

    Perhaps the link was a bit rough and they missed " ... and then switch it on again."

  20. swm Silver badge

    This is Serious

    People are joking about this but wait until it is our turn. We have to take action now before it is too late. Let's put a defensive perimeter around as many stars we can (especially our sun) and track down the perpetrators before they steal an entire galaxy.

  21. Dr. G. Freeman

    Maybe, and this is just a guess, when it went bang, and became a black hole, the hole then sucked in all the light, and no photons were quick/far enough away to get to our telescope ? Why we didn't see it go bang, You know what it's like when you first wake up, just want to stuff your face.

  22. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Alien

    Occam's Razor and Astrophysics....

    Perhaps the star was eaten!

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Occam's Razor and Astrophysics....

      .....by an enormous mutant star goat.

  23. David Woodhead

    Don't just write it off

    This could be either:

    a) The collective failure of a relatively small amount of equipment and / or data analysis in looking at this star over a short period of time, or:

    b) A once in a lifetime (of the human race) opportunity to observe and analyse whatever phenomenon caused it to 'disappear'.

    You choose.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020