Red dwarf’s light show baffles astronomers

A star’s drastic dimming has sparked intrigue among astronomers due to the strange manner in which it faded. Observers spotted a deep, day-long asymmetric dimming of the recently detected star’s light, a new study reveals.

‘EPIC 204376071’ was observed dimming by up to 80 percent for an entire day before brightening again at a slower rate than its dimming. The star is about 10 million years old and is just 440 light-years from Earth.

After the dimming, the star appeared quiet during 160 days of observation by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft during its K2 mission, the study’s authors note. Scientists aren’t sure what caused the mysterious light reduction, but have ruled out another star eclipsing it.

The blocking of the star, known as an occultation, was asymmetrical as the exit of the light-blocking object was twice as long as its entry. The team believe it could have been caused by one of two options, an “intrinsically circular disk of dusty material anchored to a minor body orbiting the host star,” or a dust sheet.

EPIC 204376071 is a red dwarf and, compared to the sun, is small, dim, with a low mass and temperature.