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Astronomers Discover the ‘Biggest Stellar Puzzle’, Bizarre Star that Refuses to Die

The study calculated that the star that exploded was at least 50 times more massive than the Sun and probably much larger.

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This star shines brighter every time it explodes. Read to know more! (representative image) Wikimedia
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New York, November 9, 2017 : An international team of astronomers has made a bizarre discovery – a star that refuses to stop shining despite exploding more than once over a period of 50 years.

The explosions of stars, known as supernovae, have been observed in the thousands and in all cases they marked the death of a star.

But a new study, published in the journal Nature, challenges known theories about the death of stars. Their observations included data from Keck Observatory on Maunakea in Hawaii.

“The spectra we obtained at Keck Observatory showed that this supernova looked like nothing we had ever seen before. This, after discovering nearly 5,000 supernovae in the last two decades,” said study co-author Peter Nugent from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the US.

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“While the spectra bear a resemblance to normal hydrogen-rich core-collapse supernova explosions, they grew brighter and dimmer at least five times more slowly, stretching an event which normally lasts 100 days to over two years,” Nugent said.

The supernova, named iPTF14hls, was discovered in September 2014 by the Palomar Transient Factory. At the time, it looked like an ordinary supernova.

Several months later, astronomers at Las Cumbres Observatory in the US noticed the supernova was growing brighter again after it had faded.

When astronomers went back and looked at archival data, they were astonished to find evidence of an explosion in 1954 at the same location.

This star somehow survived that explosion and exploded again in 2014.

“This supernova breaks everything we thought we knew about how they work. It’s the biggest puzzle I’ve encountered in almost a decade of studying stellar explosions,” said lead author Iair Arcavi, a NASA Einstein postdoctoral fellow at LCO and the University of California Santa Barbara.

The study calculated that the star that exploded was at least 50 times more massive than the Sun and probably much larger.

Supernova iPTF14hls may have been the most massive stellar explosion ever seen. The size of this explosion could be the reason that conventional understanding of the death of stars failed to explain this event.

Astronomers continue to monitor the supernova, which remains bright three years after it was discovered. (IANS)

 

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First Carbon Rich Asteroid Found in Kuiper Belt

The researchers found that the asteroid's reflectance spectrum -- the specific pattern of wavelengths of light reflected from an object -- was different to that of similar small Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs), which typically have uninteresting, featureless spectra that reveal little information about their composition.

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This object, designated 2004 EW95, likely formed in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and has been flung billions of kilometres from its origin to its current home in the Kuiper Belt, the study said.
Astronomers find first carbon-rich asteroid in Kuiper Belt, pixabay

Astronomers have discovered an unusual carbon-rich asteroid in the Kuiper Belt — the first of its kind to be confirmed in the cold outer reaches of the solar system.

This object, designated 2004 EW95, likely formed in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and has been flung billions of kilometres from its origin to its current home in the Kuiper Belt, the study said.

The researchers found that the asteroid’s reflectance spectrum — the specific pattern of wavelengths of light reflected from an object — was different to that of similar small Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs), which typically have uninteresting, featureless spectra that reveal little information about their composition.

“The reflectance spectrum of 2004 EW95 was clearly distinct from the other observed outer Solar System objects,” explained lead author Tom Seccull of Queen’s University Belfast in Britain

“It looked enough of a weirdo for us to take a closer look,” Seccull added.

In particular, these models suggest that the Kuiper Belt -- a cold region beyond the orbit of Neptune -- should contain a small fraction of rocky bodies from the inner solar system, such as carbon-rich asteroids, referred to as carbonaceous asteroids.
representational image, pixabay

Theoretical models of the early days of our solar system predict that after the gas giants formed they rampaged through the solar system, ejecting small rocky bodies from the inner solar system to far-flung orbits at great distances from the Sun.

In particular, these models suggest that the Kuiper Belt — a cold region beyond the orbit of Neptune — should contain a small fraction of rocky bodies from the inner solar system, such as carbon-rich asteroids, referred to as carbonaceous asteroids.

The new study, published in The Astrophysical Journal, presented evidence for the first reliably-observed carbonaceous asteroid in the Kuiper Belt, providing strong support for these theoretical models of our solar system’s troubled youth.

Also Read: NASA Chief: Moon Mission a Step Forward to Reach Mars 

After measurements from multiple instruments at European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), the team of astronomers was able to measure the composition of the object.

The results suggest that it originally formed in the inner solar system and must have since migrated outwards. (IANS)