New observations help explain the dimming of Tabby's Star

phys.org | 3/28/2018 | Staff
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For years, astronomers have looked up at the sky and speculated about the strange dimming behavior of Tabby's Star.

First identified more than a century ago, the star dips in brightness over days or weeks before recovering to its previous luminosity. At the same time, the star appears to be slowly losing its luster overall, leaving researchers scratching their heads.

Astronomers - Columbia - University - Explanation - Oddity

Now, astronomers at Columbia University believe they've developed an explanation for this oddity.

In a new paper published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, astrophysicists Brian Metzger, Miguel Martinez and Nicholas Stone propose that the long-term dimming is the result of a disk of debris—torn from a melting exomoon—that is accumulating and orbiting the star, blocking its light as the material passes between the star and Earth.

Exomoon - Comet - Ice - Rocks - Space

"The exomoon is like a comet of ice that is evaporating and spewing off these rocks into space," said Metzger, associate professor of astrophysics at Columbia University and principal investigator on the study. "Eventually the exomoon will completely evaporate, but it will take millions of years for the moon to be melted and consumed by the star. We're so lucky to see this evaporation event happen."

Tabby's Star, also known as KIC 8462852 or Boyajian's Star, is named after Tabetha Boyajian, the Louisiana State University (LSU) astrophysicist who discovered the star's unusual dimming behavior in 2015. Boyajian found that Tabby's Star occasionally dips in brightness—sometimes by just 1 percent and other times by as much as 22 percent—over days or weeks before recovering its luster. A year later, LSU astronomer Bradley Schaefer discovered that the star's brightness is also becoming fainter overall with time, dimming by 14 percent between 1890 and 1989.

Scientists - World - Variety - Theories - Comet

Scientists around the world have proposed a variety of theories, ranging from comet storms to alien "megastructures," to explain the short-term dips in brightness,...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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