In 2009 a giant star 25 times more massive than the Sun simply…vanished. Okay, it wasn’t quite that simple. It underwent a period of brightening, increasing in luminosity to a million Suns, just as if it was ready to explode into a supernova. But then it faded rather than exploding. And when astronomers tried to see the star, using the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT), Hubble, and the Spitzer space telescope, they couldn’t see anything.
The star, known as N6946-BH1, is now considered a failed supernova. The BH1 in its name is due to the fact that astronomers think the star collapsed to become a black hole rather than triggering a supernova. But that has been conjecture. All we’ve known for sure is that it brightened for a time then grew too dim for our telescopes to observe. But that has changed, thanks to the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).Continue reading “Astronomers Watched a Massive Star Just… Disappear. Now JWST Might Have Some Answers”