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A star disappears before the eyes of astronomers – a space telescope finds a surprise

A star disappears before the eyes of astronomers – a space telescope finds a surprise

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A space telescope detects the missing star N6946-BH1 in the infrared range. But this is not the only surprise.

MUNICH – A celestial body 25 times the mass of our Sun intrigued astronomers in 2009. It shone as intensely as several million suns and gave the impression that it was about to explode in a supernova. But instead of exploding, its luminosity decreased — until it could no longer be detected even with powerful telescopes like the Hubble Space Telescope.

The mysterious disappearance of star N6946-BH1 continues to baffle science today. The star is called a “failed supernova” and is thought to have collapsed and become a black hole instead of exploding as a supernova. However, there has been no evidence of this yet.

The James Webb Telescope finds the missing star again

Now the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is on the scene. The telescope’s high-resolution infrared lens was directed at the area where the star disappeared. Webb was a surprise to the scientific community: the supposedly missing star was still visible to Webb in the infrared range – so it hadn’t completely disappeared. But the biggest surprise is that Webb discovered three infrared sources instead of one.

The universe is full of stars. (Avatar) © IMAGO/imageBROKER/christian zappel

In a study so far only On the advance print server arXiv published Not yet peer-reviewed, a team of scientists reported: “We have shown for the first time that all previous observations of BH1 (before and after the disappearance) are in fact a combination of at least three sources.” This makes the theory that the missing star is a failed supernova less likely. After all, it was clearly three stars, not just one.

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New theory: Was the ‘missing star’ a stellar merger?

The new findings also give rise to a new theory that is now being investigated: Was there a stellar merger in 2009? This could explain the high glossiness and subsequent fading. However, the current study cannot clarify whether a stellar merger actually occurred. The authors have not yet been able to completely reject the failed supernova model and cannot clearly confirm the star merger.

However, one thing is clear to scientists: with the James Webb Space Telescope. Astronomy He is still making many exciting discoveries. Ultimately, the telescope was able to identify the three infrared sources at a distance of 22 million light-years – a feat never before achieved by the extremely powerful Hubble Telescope. (unpaid bill)

Automated assistance was used in writing this article by the editorial team. The article was carefully examined by editor Tanya Banner before publication.