There’s another oddly flickering star in the galaxy, and we don’t know what it is.
An international group of scientists has found a new star whose luminosity fluctuates mysteriously, which suggests that it is surrounded by either an unexplained cosmic phenomenon, created by our mysterious universe, or an “alien mega-structure”. Although it’s probably not aliens.
The star in question, dubbed VVV-WIT-07 has been studied by experts who have published the results in the preprint server arXiv.
Astronomers noticed the celestial object while they were examining data from the VISTA Variables program, which studies the central area of the Milky Way, and searched for supernovas and stars that suddenly light up as they explode.
The scientists had observations of VVV-WIT-07 in the period between 2010 and 2018.
During the eight-year study, astronomers noted that the brightness of the star increased and decreased without an established pattern.
Instead of brightening, this star suddenly dimmed. Hence, the team decided to call it VVV-WIT-07, for “What is this?”
And while everyone would love for it to be aliens, the answer probably isn’t aliens.
An unidentified object
“We don’t know what the object is,” explains astronomer Roberto Saito of the Federal University of Santa Catarina in Florianópolis, Brazil.
“And that’s interesting.” The star could have some sort of orbiting debris that periodically blocks the starlight, but Saito and colleagues say they need more observations to figure out if that’s possible or if the flicker is caused by something else.
Astronomers indicate that the lack of pattern is somewhat similar to Tabby’s star, except that VVV-WIT-07’s light dropped by up to 80 percent, while Tabby’s star dimmed by only about 20 percent.
Another flickering star, J1407 was spotted by astronomers in 2012. That star periodically dims by up to 95 percent, astronomer Eric Mamajek of the University of Rochester in New York and colleagues reported six years ago in a study published in the Astronomical Journal.
“If this phenomenon is the same as what’s happening with Tabby’s star, then we can’t invoke an elaborate explanation for what’s happening in both systems,” Tabetha Boyajian of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge says.
“If you’re starting to see stars similar to this all over the place, then it’s got to be a really common thing that happens in nature. That’s really cool.”