Scientists spot mysterious ‘vampire star’ as black hole theory completely burst open

This supposed “black hole” excited scientists back in 2020 when it was first discovered, as it was closest of its kind to Earth. The team of researchers discovered the system just 1000 light-years away from, which is a relatively short distance in a cosmic sense. The black hole was found in a triple system that was named HR 6819 within the constellation Telescopium.

According to astronomers based at the European Southern Observatory (ESO), this system consisted of one star that was found orbiting a black hole in a tight, 40-day orbit and another one much further out.

At the time, the team believed that the presence of the black hole was necessary for the star to orbit in the way that it does.

However, some scientists remained unconvinced.

Julia Bodensteiner, a PhD student based at KU Leuven, Belgium believed that it was more likely that HR 6819 was actually a two-star system described as a “vampire system”.

She believed that one of the stars in HR 6819 was “feeding” on the other, stripping it off its materials

In order to better understand what was going on, the researchers decided to study the star system further using ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) and Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI).

Thomas Rivinius, the lead researcher on this project said: “The scenarios we were looking for were rather clear, very different and easily distinguishable with the right instrument.”

“We agreed that there were two sources of light in the system, so the question was whether they orbit each other closely, as in the stripped-star scenario, or are far apart from each other, as in the black hole scenario.”

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These findings were further supported by data gathered from the VLTI, which revealed that the two stars were orbiting each other.

Dietrich Baade, an emeritus astronomer at ESO and a co-author of the work said: “Because the stripped star had lost most of its mass, the second star can reel it around quite easily while its effect on the other star is equally easily missed.”

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