Did you know that in 1952, while researchers at a California observatory were examining a patch of three stars, they mysteriously vanished from their camera’s lens within less than an hour? Did you think stars were even capable of vanishing?
In July 1952, researchers and astronomers at the Palomar Observatory near San Diego, California, were taking a survey of the night sky. They focused on one region of the sky with a patch of three stars and took several photographs.
One photograph, taken at 8:52 pm, showed the three stars shining close to each other. Then, less than an hour later, another photo was taken, but the stars had vanished.
The stars suddenly disappearing puzzled a lot of scientists, and over the years, they’ve come up with several theories as to why that happened. Some believe the stars didn’t disappear, but their brightness just dimmed. However, that would be a lot of dimming in less than an hour.
Recently, a group of researchers came up with a list of theories 70 years later as to what may have happened to those vanishing stars and came up with three different reasons.
Although the research has not yet been peer-reviewed, it offers some pretty interesting insight into what may have happened all those years ago.
One explanation could be that there were never three stars in the photo to begin with. Instead, there may have been one star in the first photo that was increasing in brightness, and a black hole may have passed between the Earth and the star, creating an illusion that there were three. However, that would be a very rare instance.
Another suggestion is that the three stars weren’t stars but were three separate objects. They may have been Oort cloud objects, like space rocks, that had been illuminated by something in the first photo. Then, by the time the second photo was taken, the objects had orbited out of frame.
The final theory is kind of funny, actually. A possible explanation for the vanishing stars is that they weren’t stars but specks of dirt on the photographic plates.