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:: OSEL.CZ :: – A massive, mysterious object orbiting a giant star in the center of the Milky Way

“what the hell?” Astronomers are embarrassed, in the most pleasant way possible, of the giant VVV-WIT-08, which is about 25,000 light-years away. During 2012, it was blacked out in a totally crazy way. For a few months, he practically disappeared from the sky. Then it’s back again and we have a mystery no match for Tabby’s star. The giant appears to be obscuring something gigantic, perhaps an opaque disk of matter of unknown origin, orbiting around it at a relatively great distance.

Is the giant VVV-WIT-08 blinking because of the massive disk of matter?  Credit: Amanda Smith/Cambridge University.

Is the giant VVV-WIT-08 blinking because of the massive disk of matter? Credit: Amanda Smith/Cambridge University.

The cluster of suspicious stars was recently expanded by the mysterious giant VVV-WIT-08, located near the center of the Milky Way, in the constellation Scorpius, about 25,000 light-years away. The middle three letters in the star designation, i.e. “WIT” mean “What is this?”. Astronomers are no biscuit, but they don’t waste a lot of emotion in naming space objects. So we can make sure it’s something interesting.

Lee Smith.  Credit: L Smith.

Lee Smith. Credit: L Smith.

This is so. Lee Smith of the University of Cambridge’s British Institute of Astronomy and colleagues saw this strange star, and it turned out to be so incredibly dark that it practically disappears from the sky before shining again. Although we see similar phenomena in variable stars or ecliptic star systems, it is very rare for periods of dusk and re-ignition to last for several months. Other than that, the first three letters of the object’s name, i.e. “VVV”, also have an interesting origin. They point to the “Vista Variables in the Via Lactea” project, which searches for variable stars in the center of our galaxy.

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Smith and others. They think we should introduce a whole new class of “flashing giants” astral bodies. In such a system, a stellar giant, about a hundred times larger than the Sun, orbits for a relatively long period of time from its guide, orbiting a hitherto mysterious object surrounded by a giant ring of matter, opaque to visible radiation. If we stick to Earth, it could be a star or a planet – although of course it’s a question of where the disk came from.

Epsilon Aurigae with a mysterious tablet of substance.  Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Epsilon Aurigae with a mysterious tablet of substance. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Figure VVV-WIT-08 is located in a region where, unlike what surrounds the solar system, there is a star in every corner. At first, astronomers thought the giant was obscuring some of the dark objects that occurred between us and VVV-WIT-08. However, simulations have shown that such a scenario is practically impossible based on known facts about VVV-WIT-08 and the relevant region of the Milky Way.

As for the new group “Blinking Giants”, we probably have known its other representative for a long time. It is Almaz, or Epsilon Aurigae, of the constellation Chariot, a star visible to the naked eye. Even in this case, it is a giant of the mysterious type, around which a huge UFO revolves. Every 27 years, a visor darkens to about 50 percent of its usual glow. Another example could be the recently discovered star system TYC 2505-672-1 from the constellation Little Lion, which currently holds the record for ecliptic systems with the longest period, in this case 69 years. The newly discovered “flashing giant” VVV-WIT-08 could dethrone him, but this is not yet certain.

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The characteristics of the VVV-WIT-08 system are also similar to the wonderful Mamajek object (V1400 Centauri or J1407) of the constellation Centaurus or the now mythical Tabby star (KIC 8462852), which are not giants but rather Sun-like stars, which also mysteriously darken, very similar to VVV-WIT-08. As you can see, we still have enough puzzles to solve in the nearby universe.

Video: VVV-WHITE-08

literature المؤلف

University of Cambridge 11. 6. 2021.

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 505: 1992-2008.