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Sat Jun 12, 2021, 02:45 PM

Astronomers find blinking giant star near heart of Milky Way

Huge star, 25,000 light years away, dims by 97% then slowly returns to former brightness

Ian Sample Science editor
Fri 11 Jun 2021 00.00 EDT

Astronomers have spotted a giant blinking star, 100 times the size of the sun, lurking near the heart of the Milky Way.

Telescope observations revealed that over a few hundred days the enormous star, which lies more than 25,000 light years away, dimmed by 97% and then slowly returned to its former brightness.

The unexpected and dramatic darkening was probably caused by an orbiting planet or companion star surrounded by a disc of opaque dust crossing in front and blocking out light that would otherwise have reached Earth.

“It appeared to come out of nowhere,” said Dr Leigh Smith at Cambridge University’s Institute of Astronomy, on the sudden dimming of the star. It began to fade in early 2012 and almost vanished by April that year before recovering over the next 100 days.


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