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One in a billion: scientists discovered a space object that regularly changes its color

Dmytro IvancheskulNews
Strange nebula surprised scientists. Source: Illustrative photo

Scientists have discovered a galactic nebula, a cosmic cloud of dust and gas that rhythmically changes color and brightness every four years. It is the only one of more than a billion space objects that has this behavior.

The discovery was reported by researchers from the Federal University of Santa Catarina in Brazil. Their work has been published on the arXiv preprint site and is awaiting review by the scientific community.

Roberto Saito of the Federal University of Santa Catarina and his colleagues have been looking for traces of supernovae in observations by the VISTA telescope in the Atacama Desert in Chile for nine years. This telescope is capable of surveying sections of the Milky Way in search of extremely rare events in our galactic neighborhood. In particular, it is used to search for supernovae, the last of which exploded in our galaxy in 1604.

The researchers noticed a particularly strange nebula. It changed color and brightness in sync with the light source. The scientists named the strange nebula VVV-WIT-12. WIT is an abbreviation of What is it? This is how researchers designate objects that are difficult to classify.

One in a billion: scientists discovered a space object that regularly changes its color

Saito said that the researchers have a database containing more than 1 billion objects and more than 17,000 square degrees of sky, but "this is the only source with this behavior."

The scientists also noticed another strange detail about the nebula. It turned out that, in addition to changing color over the course of four years, it was not synchronized with itself. That is, when the side of the nebula closest to the Earth became brighter, the farthest side dimmed and vice versa.

"It was a surprise for us. It's quite difficult to understand," Saito said.

The researchers suggest that the interesting object may be an unusual young star in the process of formation. Its very "youth" may be the reason for such variability. However, to understand the nature of the star, they will need a detailed spectrum that would show its chemical composition. The VISTA telescope is not equipped with such a feature.

Saito hopes that more details about the object will be revealed through future observations using newer large-scale survey telescopes, such as the Vera Rubin Observatory in Chile.

Earlier, OBOZ.UA reported that scientists saw the unique space cataclysm "Tasmanian Devil" for the first time.

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