VASCO Physics

Most stars either faint very slowly over millions of years or undergo an instantaneous bright supernova when they die. A tiny fraction of stars might, hypothetically, collapse directly into a black hole (“failed supernovae”), but not more often than once every few hundred years in the Milky Way. Therefore, it is extremely unlikely that a Milky Way star would just entirely physically vanish due to any known, natural phenomena. But supercivilisations could have all kind of reasons to hide or erase a star from the map, assuming available technology. Maybe this event never happens; maybe it happens today or tomorrow.

The “Vanishing and Appearing Stuff during a Century of Observations” (VASCO) mission, therefore, looks for vanishing stars in the Milky Way as a strong signature of extraterrestrial intelligence — or entirely new physical phenomena we do not know about yet.

VASCO uses modern, existing all-sky surveys like the Gaia, Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) and United States Naval Observatory database (USNO ) for this project, in combination with the most state-of-the-art statistical techniques used within astronomy and developed for the purpose to extract the best possible vanishing star- candidates for VASCO.

The main goals include, but are not limited to:

  • Find vanishing objects using surveys from different epochs in time, see previous work.

  • Search for signatures of extraterrestrial intelligence — or new physical phenomena — using Gaia.

  • Develop data processing methods to automatize the searches for vanishing objects in surveys.

The project may also give fascinating and fruitful side results, like

  • Discovery of a failed supernovae in the Milky Way, i.e. stars that collapse directly into black holes without accompanying supernova. In such case, the available Gaia data can reveal the entire process.

  • Discovery of extreme variable objects in the sky surveys close to the detection limit, e.g. extreme Active Galactic Nuclei. These are fundamentally interesting to understand the build-up of super-massive black holes.


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