Gas cloud makes star flash

Science Illustrated - - SCIENCE UPDATE -

The most mys­te­ri­ous star in the uni­verse. That is what as­tronomers have nick­named KIC 8462852. Lo­cated 1,000 light years away, it's about 50% larger than the Sun and 1,000 de­grees hot­ter. And it ap­pears to turn its light up and down in a way that we haven't seen in any other stars.

More than 200 as­tronomers have co­op­er­ated to find out why. Headed by Ta­betha Boy­a­jian from Louisiana State Uni­ver­sity in the US, they have col­lected ob­ser­va­tions from tele­scopes through­out the world over a pe­riod of 1.5 years. In this way, they have ob­tained de­tailed data, which demon­strates ex­actly how and when the light from the star in­creases and de­creases in dif­fer­ent wave­lengths.

If a solid, im­pen­e­tra­ble ob­ject were or­bit­ing the star, block­ing out its light, the as­tronomers ex­pected that all wave­lengths would be equally af­fected, but that was not the case. The light de­creased more in some wave­lengths than oth­ers, sug­gest­ing a cloud of gas was or­bit­ing the star.

The mys­tery has not yet been com­pletely solved. Ac­cord­ing to the as­tronomers, comets around the star might also play a role, whereas other sci­en­tists still be­lieve that it is the star it­self which is get­ting brighter and dim­mer.

A skew gas cloud around the KIC 8462852 star makes its light flash ir­reg­u­larly.

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