Mysterious dusty object spotted orbiting distant star ‘puzzling’ to astronomers

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Astronomers have been left 'puzzled' by a mysterious dusty object discovered outside of our solar system.

Experts using the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which launched in 2018, have discovered 172 planets and put together a list of more than 4,700 candidates to date.

But their latest discovery has them baffled as the object appears to have remained intact while emitting large quantities of dust making it unlike dusty comets they've seen before.

Dr Karen Collins, the astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, found the object using machine-learning tools which had previously turned up "stellar pulsations, shocks from supernovae, disintegrating planets, gravitational self-lensed binary stars, eclipsing triple star systems, disk occultations, and more".

The unusual TIC was spotted when it had a rapid 25% drop in brightness in just a few hours.

The object is instead thought to be a binary star system and has been given the number 400799224 and placed in the TESS Input Catalogue (TIC).

The catalogue allows for follow-up studies to be conducted and has seen a range of other astronomical objects and events be identified.

Dr Collins and her colleagues will continue to team monitor the object and attempting to incorporate historical observations to determine its variations in past decades.

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The news comes just months after newly discovered galaxies were found to be as old as the universe itself but went undetected because they were hidden by cosmic dust.

The new star systems were found by accident as astronomers were searching for old objects in space.

Usually, they won't study empty space and will look for those that are very red-shifted, since objects moving away from the observer effectively pull the light they emit into longer wavelengths.

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