On July 19, 1952, the Palomar Observatory observed the night sky. Part of the project was to take multiple images of the same area of the sky to help identify objects such as asteroids.
At approximately 8:52 that evening, a photographic plate captured the combined light of three stars. Stars of magnitude 15 were very bright in the image. At 21:45, the same area of the sky was captured again, but this time the three stars could no longer be seen. They completely disappeared in less than an hour, writes A The universe today.
Stars don’t just disappear. It may explode or shine for a short time, but it does not disappear without leaving a trace. However, the evidence pointed to him. The three stars appear clearly in the first image and are clearly absent in the second. So the assumption is that it may have suddenly disappeared, but even that is difficult to accept.
Subsequent observations found no evidence that the stars were dimmer than magnitude 24. This means they were probably dim by a factor of ten thousandths or more. What could cause stars to dim so quickly and to such an astonishing degree?
A star cannot simply disappear
According to one idea, it is actually not three stars, but one. Perhaps a star brightened briefly, such as a fast radio burst from a magnetar. While this was happening, a stellar-mass black hole may have passed between it and us, causing the gravitational glow to briefly reflect in three images.
The problem with this idea is that such an event would be extremely rare, but other photographic records taken in the 1950s show similarly rapid disappearances for many stars. In some cases, there is an arcmic distance (one-sixtieth of a degree) between stars, which would be difficult to reproduce using gravitational lensing.
According to another idea, there were no stars at all. The three bright spots are located within 10 arc seconds of each other. If there are three separate objects, there must be something making them glow. almost. Given a time period of 50 minutes, the causality and speed of light relationship requires that they be at most 6 AU apart.
This means that they cannot be more than two light years apart. They may have been objects from the Oort Cloud as some event caused them to brighten around the same time. Subsequent observations did not find them, because they have since continued to drift in their orbits.
According to a third idea, these were not celestial bodies at all. The Palomar Observatory is not too far from the New Mexico desert, where nuclear weapons were tested. Radioactive dust from the tests may have contaminated the photographic plates, causing bright spots to appear on some images but not others. Given similar disappearances seen on other photographic plates in the 1950s, this seems very possible.
We can’t be sure yet. What we really need to do is record some of these events in recent surveys where we can quickly go back and make further observations. For now, it’s a mystery waiting to be solved.