Mystery as 100 Stars Disappear in the Night Sky

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What’s going on now in space?

A comparison of old and new star catalogs shows that some objects seem to have gone missing.

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Stars mysteriously disappear in the sky. But where’d it go? The bright star in in the left image taken in the 1950s has disappeared in the new image of the same field. Picture via Villarroel et al.

The universe holds many mysteries that baffle astronomers from dark energy to cosmic rays to our own solar system… We live in a cosmic oddity as shown by the many alien sounds recorded out there. Now in a new science paper, a group of scientists compared star maps from the 1950s with recent images from the same spots, and discovered that 100 previously catalogued stars cannot be found anymore. Pretty baffling, no?

Many Stars Have Disappeared

The new data compiled by project ‘Vanishing and Appearing Sources during a Century of Observations (VASCO)’ were gathered by comparing mapped stars listed in the U.S. Naval Observatory Catalogue (USNO) B 1.0, dating from the 1950s, with those in the more recent sky catalog of Pan-STARRS Data Release (DR1).

Among the 600 million stars found in the older catalog, 150,000 objects had no readily identifiable counterparts in the new star survey, although the Pan-STARRS can detect much fainter light sources than present in USNO.

The authors visually inspected 24,000 candidates of these 150,000 anomalies and discovered that 100 of these point sources of light had disappeared in the night sky.

How Do Stars Disappear From the Sky?

There are certainly natural phenomena – extremely flaring dwarf planets, failed supernova, or stars that might directly collapse into a black hole – behind the disappearance of several of those stars.

But 100 vanishing stars in less than 50 years is a lot and it would be an amazing surprise if they all can be explained by a natural phenomenon.

The authors themselves discuss the possibility that these mysterious disappearances could be the result of unknown phenomena, or the relics of technologically advanced civilizations, particularly the theoretical mega-engineering projects known as Dyson spheres.

What Are These Missing Stars?

Perhaps the missing objects are signs of an advanced civilization. But they’re probably not Dyson spheres.

First, it would be hard to explain why and how such a giant construction project, completely shading out the light of the host star, could be done within the short period of less than a century.

But more importantly, “traditional” Dyson spheres are not gravitationally stable. Even if one could be built near a star like our Sun, it would require more total mass than is available in all our Solar System’s planets, moons, and asteroids.

A few of these missing stars might be explained as flaring stars whose brightness dropped below the detection limit, or stars that collapsed directly into a black hole.

A large portion, however, might represent new stages in the life cycle of certain stars or new stellar phenomena that have not yet been seen. That by itself would be an exciting topic to investigate.

Where Are the Missing Stars?

Are they at the same location, just not emitting light anymore? Or perhaps they’ve moved to some other location.

If the latter, could some of these represent huge starships, the size of moons or planets, that moved outside the field of view?

This, of course, is a highly speculative suggestion. But it would address the hotly discussed Fermi Paradox, and would, in principle, be testable.

If these “missing” light sources represent giant starships, some should appear in new star surveys in some other part of the sky. In an ideal case, we might even be able to track their trajectories through time.

A new direction of future research would be to search for clusters of missing stars, which, if they exist, could be related to new natural phenomena in a particular region of space, or perhaps to activities of an extraterrestrial civilization.

I would on light sources that suddenly appear in new star surveys, and see whether they can be correlated to the stars that vanished. Either way, the authors have turned up something that may become very important for both astrophysical and SETI investigations. Continue reading Strange Sounds or visit Steve Quayle for more extraterrestrial headlines. [ApJ, Air and Space]

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