Dust Rings Disappear from Distant StarCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: July 13, 2012 06:52AM
Can you imagine Saturn without its rings? Those structures are among the most beautiful you can find within the Solar System and distinguish that one gas giant from the others. Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles and San Diego have discovered that a star, younger but not dissimilar from our Sun, has lost its giant dust rings.
The star named TYC 8241 2652 was first observed with an infrared telescope in 1983, and those observations showed the dust rings surrounding it. Dust is best seen with infrared telescopes as it radiates the energy it absorbs as infrared light, making it shine brightly. This is what allowed researchers to see the rings that stretched out half an astronomical unit; the distance between the Earth and the Sun. Since 2009 though, the infrared light has been dimming, and now it is completely gone, after just two-and-a-half years.
Never has this disappearing act been observed before and researchers are baffled by it. Astrophysics has no compelling explanation for how the dust could vanish as quickly as that, which leaves this as a mystery. As interesting as this observation is though, there is something else interesting to consider. Though we have never observed this behavior before, it is possible this happens quite often, but not where we normally look. Until we know what happened, we cannot know how common it is.