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Star exploded, survived, and exploded again more than 50 years later

Bringing some of the mysteries of the universe a little closer to home.

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Thu Nov 09, 2017 6:08 pm

An international team of astronomers including Carnegie's Nick Konidaris and Benjamin Shappee discovered a star that exploded multiple times over a period of 50 years. The finding, published by Nature, completely confounds existing knowledge of a star's end of life, and Konidaris' instrument-construction played a crucial role in analyzing the phenomenon.

In September 2014, the intermediate Palomar Transient Factory team of astronomers detected a new explosion in the sky, iPTF14hls.

The light given off by the event was analyzed in order to understand the speed and chemical composition of the material ejected in the explosion.

This analysis indicated that the explosion was what's called a type II-P supernova, and everything about the discovery seemed normal. Until, that is, a few months later when the supernova started getting brighter again.

Type II-P supernovae usually remain bright for about 100 days. But iPTF14hls remained bright for more than 600! What's more, archival data revealed a 1954 explosion in the exact same location.

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Thu Nov 09, 2017 6:09 pm

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Credit: Adapted from Arcavi et al. 2017, Nature. POSS/DSS/LCO/S. Wilkinson.

An image taken by the Palomar Observatory Sky Survey reveals a possible explosion in the year 1954 at the location of iPTF14hls (left), not seen in a later image taken in 1993 (right). Supernovae are known to explode only once, shine for a few months and then fade, but iPTF14hls experienced at least two explosions, 60 years apart.

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Thu Nov 09, 2017 6:11 pm



The appearance of a years-long supernova explosion challenges scientist's current understanding of star formation and death, and work is underway to explain the bizarre phenomenon.

Stars more than eight times the mass of the sun end their lives in fantastic explosions called supernovas. These are among the most energetic phenomena in the universe. The brightness of a single dying star can briefly rival that of an entire galaxy. Supernovas that form from supermassive stars typically rise quickly to a peak brightness and then fade over the course of around 100 days as the shock wave loses energy.

After 100 days, the supernova looked just 30 days old. Two years later, the supernova's spectrum still looked the way it would if the explosion were only 60 days old. The supernova recently emerged from behind Earth's sun, and Arcavi said it's still bright, after roughly three years. But at one one-hundredth of its peak brightness, the object appears to finally be fading out.

 
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