When a massive star, more than eight times the mass of our Sun, runs out of fuel to keep it shining, it ends its life in a dramatic explosion. Known as a supernova, the sequence of a rapid collapse followed by a violent explosion can leave the remnants, either a neutron star or a black hole, shining brightly for up to 100 days. Or so we thought.
The longest supernova explosion ever observed has been detailed in a Nature paper published today, with a stellar explosion shining for more than 600 days. The discovery could lead us to completely rewrite our understanding of how stars evolve.
In September 2014, Iair Arcavi and colleagues were using Intermediate Palomar Transient Factory telescope near San Diego, when they came across what they thought was a regular type II supernova, the explosion at the end of a massive star’s life. They named it iPTF14hls.
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