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Astrophysicists deal with unknown phenomena all the time. One such phenomenon is the case of mysteriously disappearing stars.
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Researchers with the "Vanishing & Appearing Sources during a Century of Observations" (VASCO) project have identified 100 such stars that once existed and then magically stopped. They did so by comparing catalogs from the 1950s to today's data sets.
"Finding an actually vanishing star - or a star that appears out of nowhere! - would be a precious discovery and certainly would include new astrophysics beyond the one we know of today", said project leader Beatriz Villarroel, Stockholm University and Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, Spain.
When stars die they either become white dwarfs or supernovas. Stars that don't fit in either of these categories are considered "impossible phenomenon" that could be attributed either to new astrophysics or to alien activity.
Out of 15% of the 150,000 candidate objects in the available data, the researchers have spotted approximately a hundred red transients. "We are very excited about following up on the 100 red transients we have found", said Beatriz Villarroel.
Not alien activity
Before you get too excited that these 100 objects may be due to alien activity it should be noted that the researchers discounted that possibility.
"But we are clear that none of these events have shown any direct signs of being ETI. We believe that they are natural, if somewhat extreme, astrophysical sources", said Martin López Corredoira, co-author of the paper, Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, Spain.
Now, the researchers are seeking help to examine all 150,000 candidate objects. Through a citizen science project, they hope to find more information on these anomalies. And who knows with a bit of luck they may actually detect some alien activity.
"We hope to get help from the community to look through the images as a part of a citizen science project," said Lars Mattsson, Stockholm University.