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NASA Telescope Captures Rare Supernova Explosion

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The Spitzer Space Telescope revealed images of a supernova explosion in which a dead star sucked off the remaining cosmic energy of an aging star.

NASA scientists categorized this explosion as Type Ia, a type of supernova explosion where white dwarfs are detonated. These newly-captured images may provide clues to help scientists discover how and why such explosions occur.

Supernovas are essential phenomena in our universe, as they recycle and churn out heavy metals to produce new cosmic bodies and perpetuate the spread of these elements throughout our universe. Since Type Ia supernovas blow up in similar ways, scientists could use them as compasses to calculate the size and rate of expansion of our universe. According to researchers, Type Ia explosions only occur after a star used up all its available gas, which is likely to happen to our own Sun soon.”It’s kind of like being a detective,” NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Fellow and lead author of the study Brian Williams said in a news release. “We look for clues in the remains to try and figure out what happened, even though we weren’t there to see it.”

In the past decade, scientists determined that these explosions likely started when two white dwarfs collided. Kepler’s supernova, however, emerged when a white dwarf was accompanied by a red giant star.

The observations from Spitzer were similar to that of Kepler’s supernova, called the N103B. This 1,000-year-old supernova was about 160,000 light years away and located in the Large Magellanic Cloud.

“It’s like Kepler’s older cousin. The region around the remnant is extraordinarily dense,” Williams stated.

Scientists thought Kepler’s supernova and N103B may have exploded in this fashion: the white dwarf was orbited by its companion, an aging star. As the aging star explodes, most of its materials pour down on the white dwarf star, causing it to build up mass until it explodes.

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