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Massive Dying Star Vanishes In Thin Air, Falls Short on Becoming a Supernova

May 26, 2017 01:16 PM EDT

A massive dying star located in a galaxy 22 million light-years away has caught the attention of astronomers from NASA and the Ohio State University. The star, dubbed as N6946-BH1, suddenly vanished into thin air.

Normally, dying stars go off with a bang. However, astronomers observed that the dying star N6946-BH1 just fizzled out, leaving behind a black hole without turning into a supernova. Their observation was described in a paper published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

"The typical view is that a star can form a black hole only after it goes supernova," said Christopher Kochanek, professor of astronomy at The Ohio State University and lead investigator of the study, in a press release. "If a star can fall short of a supernova and still make a black hole, that would help to explain why we don't see supernovae from the most massive stars."

The astronomers observed that the star N6946-BH1begun to brighten weakly starting 2009. Shockingly, the astronomers can't detect the presence of the same star in 2015. Using the combined power of the Large Binocular Telescope, Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope, the astronomers tried to search any signs that the star is still there or find any possible remnants of the star. After carefully eliminating all possibilities, including the star dimming out or being hidden behind a dust cloud, the astronomers concluded that the star turned into a black hole.

Dubbed as "massive fails", the astronomers noted that massive stars may quietly collapsed into a black hole without going through supernova. Based on the number of supernovas the astronomers observed during their seven-year survey, they estimate that 10 to 30 percent of the massive stars die as a failed supernova and turns into black hole.

These findings may pave way in understanding the origins of supermassive black holes. Study authors believe that the idea of a massive star forming into a supermassive black hole after blowing off much of its outer layer during a supernova doesn't necessarily make sense.

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