The night sky has changed and scientists don’t know why

How long have you been looking up at the night sky? I would venture to guess that few of us, those who live far from cities, see the night sky at least approximately as it is. Meanwhile, it is believed that the starry sky above our heads is constant and unchanging.

After all, sailors have been guided by the stars for centuries, using constellations as landmarks for ships. In turn, stargazers, gazing carefully into the cosmic ocean, marked roughly the same outlines on maps of the night sky. Thus, today we can distinguish the constellations of the Big Dipper, Little Dipper, Dragon, Snake, Dolphin, and at least 84 other constellations. But could it be that we haven’t been watching the sky closely enough for our heads, and it does change? To get the latest stories, install our app here.

How has the night sky changed?

Comparing 70 years of observations with recent images of the night sky, a team of astronomers searched for celestial objects that may have disappeared from our eyes over the decades. After years of painstaking work, members of the Centennial Observations Project, have published their first results in The Astronomical Journal, according to which at least 100 luminous objects that appeared in the mid-20th century have likely darkened. But what happened to them, and what kind of objects are they?

According to the authors of the study, the disappearing sources of light may be objects whose life cycle has ended. The astronomers emphasize that it is almost certain that the preliminary findings correspond to natural and well-studied events, such as supernovae outbreaks or the death of galaxies. At the same time, the researchers hope that their findings will be relevant to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence in the future.

When the life cycle of some stars comes to an end, their demise is marked by a supernova flash, a phenomenon in which the brightness of a star increases dramatically, gradually fading. As a result of the outburst, supernovae collapse into the densest objects in the universe – neutron stars or mysterious black holes.

Being able to see in detail how the starry sky has changed over the past 70-100 years will allow astronomers to learn new, unexpected ways that stars or galaxies are dying. In doing so, it cannot be ruled out that the source of the vanished light may be an alien civilization that has learned to harness the energy of its native star or even its own galaxy.

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Disappearing stars

Astronomers analyzed about 600 million light sources in the study and found about 150,000 seemingly missing objects. They compared these missing light sources with images from other datasets to identify the remaining candidates and determine which ones represented real light sources, not a camera malfunction or other malfunction. Ultimately, the researchers identified 100 disappearing light sources.

At this point, scientists cannot say with certainty what these disappearing light sources are.

If further observations confirm that the disappearing lights are real astronomical events, they can be divided into two categories. Most likely, the disappearing objects detected indicate red dwarf flares, variable stars, gamma-ray bursts afterglow, and other short-lived cosmic phenomena. The authors of the scientific paper note that as further observations will be found hundreds more sources.

In addition, in 2021 launched the James Webb Space Telescope (NASA), which will further explore the atmospheres of distant exoplanets, and in 2022 will launch the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope – a wide-angle large survey reflector telescope, which will scan the sky every three nights. The new telescopes, the study authors rightly believe, will accelerate the hunt for strange, disappearing objects that change the face of the night sky.

It should be noted that 80% of Earth’s inhabitants have never seen the sky as it is. It’s all about artificial light sources, which have caused light pollution or the sky being obscured by artificial light sources. In addition to the fact that light pollution interferes with astronomical observations, it changes the biorhythms of living beings.

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