Mysterious Dusty Object Spotted Lurking Among the Stars


| LAST UPDATE 01/07/2022

By Sharon Renee
NASA mission stars discovery
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Millions upon millions of miles away, the stars in our galaxy light up the night sky. But recently, as astronomers studied the beautiful sight, they came across a startling discovery. Here's what they found lurking among the distant stars and why it's left the scientific community completely baffled.

It all started when researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) began to analyze the latest batch of data from the TESS Input Catalogue. For those unaware, TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) is part of NASA's history-making 2018 mission. Its goal? To scour the skies above in search of new planets in our solar system. Sure enough, the innovative satellite led scientists to an unexpected sighting...

NASA mission dusty stars
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Standing out amongst a batch of glistening stars, an unfamiliar object suddenly appeared on their screen. "Its rapid drop in brightness, by nearly 25% in just a few four hours, followed by several sharp brightness variations that could each be interpreted as an eclipse" made it impossible to miss, as the CfA team recalled. Dubbed TIC 400799224, the mysterious discovery was like nothing they've ever seen before. As the lead astronomers described it, the finding was "a unique object of uncertain nature... orbiting one star of the widely separated binary TIC 400799224."

NASA mysterious dusty star
NASA/Handout/Getty Images

"The nature of the orbiting body itself was puzzling because the quantity of dust emitted was large," the team further revealed. "If it were produced by the disintegration of an object like the asteroid Ceres in our solar system, it would survive only about 8,000 years before disappearing." Clearly, there's still lots to be learned about the dusty mystery object. In the meantime, scientists suspect it might be the result of a binary star system, where one of the stars pulsates regularly for a 19.77-day period. Moving forward, astronomers will continue to keep a close eye on the mysterious sighting, as they continue to put their theory to the test. "The team plans to continue monitoring the object and to incorporate historical observations of the sky to try to determine its variations over many decades," the study noted. And on that note, stay tuned...

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