The red hypergiant VY Canis Majoris began to fade sharply, and after a while it was recovering. Earlier, similar events occurred with the star Betelgeuse. Now scientists have figured out what is the reason for the unusual behavior.
The red hypergiant VY Canis Majoris is much larger and more massive than the star Betelgeuse. The hypergiant began to tarnish for extended periods: they could last for years. VY Canis Majoris is 300 thousand times brighter than our Sun.
The Betelgeuse eclipse was associated with a gas stream that may have formed dust that obscured part of Betelgeuse’s light. With VY Canis Majoris, a similar thing happened, but on a much larger scale. Massive ejections of matter that caused the fading temporarily blocked the light from the star.
Giant arcs of plasma surround the star at a distance thousands of times greater than the distance from the Earth to the Sun. These arcs are similar to the solar prominences of our own Sun, only on a much larger scale. In addition, they are not physically associated with the star, but rather were thrown away and are now moving in the opposite direction from the star.
In the new work, the authors found that these eruptions of plasma arcs occurred around the 19th and 20th centuries, when VY Canis Majoris sharply dimmed. Now, during the next tarnishing, VY Canis Majoris may be in a unique evolutionary state, the authors suggest.
Due to these emissions, VY Canis Majoris may have already lost half of its mass. Instead of exploding like a supernova, the star could simply collapse right into a black hole. The authors of the work stated that observations of the celestial body continue.