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For first time, astronomers discover star-like objects that appear and disappear


Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, July 16

An international collaboration of astronomers, including Indian scientists, has identified a curious occurrence of nine star-like objects that appeared and vanished in a small region within half an hour on a photographic plate.

Such a group of objects appearing and disappearing at the same time have been detected for the first time in the history of astronomy.

Astronomers collaborating across counties track vanishing and appearing celestial objects by comparing old images of the night sky with the new modern one, register unnatural phenomena, and probe deep into such phenomena to record changes in the Universe.

Scientists from India, Sweden, Spain, the USA and Ukraine investigated early forms of photography that used glass plates to capture images of the night sky from April 12, 1950, that had been taken at Palomar Observatory in California, and detected these transient stars which were not to be found in photographs half an hour later and not traced since then.

The astronomers have not found any explanation in established astrophysical phenomena like gravitational lensing, fast radio bursts, or any variable star that could be responsible for this cluster of fast changes in the sky.

Scientists from Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES), Nainital, participated in the study, which has been published in Nature’s “Scientific Reports”, according to a statement issued today by the Ministry of Science and Technology.

The study used the 10.4 meter Gran Telescopio Canarias at Spain, the largest optical telescope in the world, for deep ‘second epoch’ observations. The team hoped to find a counterpart at the position of every object that had appeared and vanished on the plate. The counterparts found are not necessarily physically connected to the weird objects.

The scientists are still exploring the reasons behind the observation of these strange transient stars and are still not sure about what triggered their appearance and disappearance.

“The only thing we can say with certainty is that these images contain star-like objects that should not be there. We do not know why they are there,” Dr Alok C. Gupta from ARIES said.

The astronomers are examining the possibility that the photographic plates were contaminated with radioactive particles, causing false stars on the plates. But if the observation is proven to be real, another option is solar reflections from reflective, unnatural objects in orbit around Earth several years before the first human satellite was launched.

The astronomers have still not sorted out the root cause of the “nine simultaneous transients”.

They are now exploring for more signatures of solar reflections in these digitized data from the 1950s in the hope to find aliens.

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