No Biggie: Just an Invisible 'Galactic Lump' With the Mass of 10 Million Suns is Making Stars Near Us Vanish

Source - An invisible cosmic behemoth might be tearing apart the closest star cluster to the Sun, leaving one side of the cluster eerily dark and devoid of stars, according to a new study. 

The culprit may be a dark matter substructure, a relic that contains the mass of 10 million Suns and is made of a mysterious non-luminous substance. The possible presence of this “Galactic lump” was detected in a new map that charts out the enormous extent of the Hyades star cluster, located only 153 light years from Earth, which was published on Wednesday in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Scientists led by Tereza Jerabkova, a research fellow at the European Space Agency (ESA), came across the unnerving lump while examining the Hyades cluster using data collected by ESA’s Gaia satellite. ...

The cluster dates back some 700 million years and has changed significantly, as stars become unbound due to both interior cluster dynamics as well as gravitational forces from the larger Milky Way galaxy. 

These outside forces that tug at the cluster have, over the eons, sculpted two structures known as “tidal tails” that sweep out in front and behind the central hub of stars. ...

Now, according to the new study, it looks like something is ripping apart one of those tails. Something we can’t see. Something big

The team is the first to suggest that “a close encounter with a massive Galactic lump can explain the observed asymmetry in the tidal tails of the Hyades,” according to the study. Based on the observations, this lump would have to be incredibly massive and elusively hidden, because there is no sign of a visible gas cloud or star cluster that might be tugging stars off the trailing tail. ..

The missing stars aren’t being gobbled up, as they might be by a black hole, Jerabkova said. Rather “the orbits of the stars in the Galaxy are being affected/changed by the encounter” which may cause them to disappear from view. ...

If you’re wondering whether our own solar system might end up wandering too close to one of these haloes, you shouldn’t sweat it. 

“Such an encounter is basically impossible. ... ” Jerabkova said. 

I appreciate the work Tereza Jerabkova and her intrepid team of astronomers is doing. But I'm not buying that this thing is not a threat to us. No way, no how. 

I admit I'm just an amateur who can point out maybe a half dozen constellations in the night sky and am good for at best 2-3 correct answers when Astronomy comes up as a category on "Jeopardy!" The fact I'm wearing a Star Trek shirt in honor of Leonard Nimoy's birthday doesn't make me a space scientist. (Just the sexiest guy with two kids in college that you know.) But who are they kidding with this idea? An incomprehensibly huge and unimaginably powerful dark matter monster making stars disappear is no threat to our solar system just because we're not significant enough? So what, it's just going to ignore us while it looks for bigger targets to destroy? That might have worked for the staff at the European Space Agency when they were hiding from bullies in high school, but it's not how astrophysics work. 

I do get it though. If you're the first human to peer out that deep into the cosmos with the finest picture quality any instrument has ever had, and the first thing you see is an infinite force of nature with a destructive power that's like Thanos and Galactus had a baby, and that baby grew up to have a baby with Darkseid, and then that baby pooped out a trillion Death Stars and they started blasting solar systems near us into oblivion, what are you going to do? Announce it to the world? Tell everybody we're doomed? Then what? The whole human race just has to kiss our asses goodbye? Because trust me, the first thing that's going to end will be funding for astronomical studies when there's nothing astronomical left to study. Everyone will just focus on the End of Existence Worldwide Orgypalooza instead of wanting to watch our demise as it approaches. 


So let's just get used to the idea. While we've been sweating out contagions, wars, global warming, natural disasters and shrimp-eating rats nesting in Cinnamon Toast Crunch, we forgot all about the fact that 85% of the matter in the universe is this dark matter stuff about which we know nothing about and it's coming to swallow us like candy. We had a good run, but it's over. Nice knowing you all.