A hundred stars are gone, researchers have not ruled out aliens

History makes us believe that the night sky is permanent. After all, navigators have been manipulating their ships for centuries with fixed star motifs, and our eyes are still following the silhouettes of the same heroes and villains found by the gazelle over the millennia. But what if we just don't look closely enough? What if our night sky is changing?

A group of astronomers aims to shake this stability by disappearing and appearing sources in the Century Observation (VASCO) project by comparing 70-year-old surveys with recent night-sky images to discover what may be missing Sexual assumptions. After years of hard work, they recently announced their first research results in the Journal of Astronomy: at least 100 needles of subtle light that appeared in the middle of the 20th century may be dark today.

If researchers can indeed confirm what they are seeing, the disappearing light source may indicate a short flash at night, or it may be the disappearance of a long-lasting celestial body. The authors of the study stress that, although their initial findings almost certainly represent natural and easy-to-understand events, they hope that future results will be related to astronomy and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI).

Beatriz Villarroel, a researcher at the Nordic Institute of Theoretical Physics and co-author of the latest report, said: "VASCO is a project that is both a SETI project and a conventional astrophysics project." "Even if we do SETI does not have SETI issues, and we are also interested in publishing other results found along the way. "

As a student, Villarroel once wrote short stories. One day, her creative meditation raised a clear question: Has any object disappeared in the night sky? Has anyone checked?

When stars die, they often burst into an unforgettable glory. Chinese astronomers recorded the first supernova over 1800 years ago. Villaroll believes that a star or galaxy quietly melting late into the night will require more explanation. Such a discovery may herald an unexpected way of star death, or suggest that advanced civilizations blocked the sun with solar panels. Both will mark exciting discoveries. "If we are looking for aliens, maybe we should really look for something really ridiculous," Villarroel said.

After receiving her doctorate, Villarroel began answering her questions with VASCO. Working with a team of about 20 astronomers and astrophysicists, she worked to compare a series of sky images taken by the United States Naval Observatory (USNO) over the decades since 1949, as well as panoramic survey telescopes and fast-responding Observation Results System (Pan-STARRS) between 2010 and 2014.

The team used software to analyze the 600 million light sources that should appear in the two datasets and came up with about 150,000 candidate light sources that seemed to have disappeared. They cross-referenced those missing lights with images in other datasets to isolate particularly promising possibilities. Finally, they checked the remaining 24,000 candidates one by one to see that they represented real light spots, not camera malfunctions or similar incidents. In the end, they found about 100 resources that really disappeared. "We have done our best to remove anything resembling artifacts," Villarroel said.

If further observations confirm that these disappearances represent real astronomical events, they may fall into two categories. Villarroel said they are likely to indicate a short flash, which was accidentally discovered by USNO's initial investigation and has long faded to black. Any kind of garden change phenomenon can explain these flicker phenomena, such as red dwarf flares, dimmed stars (less than the sensitivity of Pan-STARRS), or the afterglow of a burst of gamma rays, to name a few.

Or, fascinatingly, Villarroel might be on the path she was looking for: a permanent light source turned off. SETI enthusiasts have long speculated about alien civilizations, which have the engineering ability to act like a god to capture all the light emitted by a star, making it invisible. However, there are also natural explanations, such as the so-called "red supergiant" jumping over the supernova and collapsing directly into the black hole. However, these non-explosive deaths are considered very rare, so if these explosions occurred in more than a dozen people, the discovery would be difficult to explain. Encouraged by early results, Villarroel once again insisted that it was too early to start fantasizing about alien engineers. "You have to rule out all natural things, and then there may be new natural phenomena we don't know about, which may be even more exciting," she said.

In addition to continuing research on hundreds of locations that seem to lack light sources, VASCO astronomers plan to implement a citizen science project that anyone interested can help them search the remaining 150,000 candidates. Villarroel estimates that there are hundreds of other disappearing sources yet to be discovered.

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