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Dead stars can reignite and then blow up

Posted on Friday, 29 August, 2014 | Comment icon 8 comments

A debris cloud circling a white dwarf star. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 NASA/ESA
Astronomers have determined that white dwarf stars can suddenly spring back to life and explode.
Traditionally a white dwarf is what's left after a dying star sheds its outer layers, shrinks down and then slowly cools off over time.

Now however scientists have been able to confirm what has long been suspected - that a white dwarf can be brought back to life if either it collides with another white dwarf or if a disruptive interaction takes place between it and a companion star.

White dwarfs remain stable so long as their mass is below a specific threshold, but if the star steals matter from another star its mass may grow too great to maintain stability, resulting in the compression of the carbon within the star's core and initiating a sudden release of energy, tearing the star apart.

Astronomers learned of this mechanism by examining the remnants of a mysterious category of stellar explosion known as a Type Ia supernova.

"Upsetting the conventional wisdom is always a joy in science," said astrophysicist Robert P Kirshner. "There is also a deep pleasure in showing decisive evidence on an important physical idea that has been used without proof for decades. It is a wonderful result."

Source: BBC News | Comments (8)

Tags: White Dwarf, Star, Supernova

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by seeder on 28 August, 2014, 12:27
Cool pics! Gotta luv the Universe... always new surprises
Comment icon #2 Posted by Astra00 on 28 August, 2014, 13:01
Beautiful pictures....I have a gorgeous image of a supernovae on my desktop....astounding and amazing stuff going on out there in space.
Comment icon #3 Posted by JVG on 28 August, 2014, 13:39
The photos were awesome...
Comment icon #4 Posted by FollowTheTrail on 28 August, 2014, 14:07
Amazing pictures!
Comment icon #5 Posted by ancient astronaut on 29 August, 2014, 21:55
The wonders of the universe never cease to amaze.
Comment icon #6 Posted by FizzPuff on 31 August, 2014, 22:32
That's pretty awesome.
Comment icon #7 Posted by Likely Guy on 1 September, 2014, 2:46
This news is 11.5 million years old. We live in a time machine.
Comment icon #8 Posted by Starhunter on 9 September, 2014, 12:34
When pictures of various novas began to be published, scientists did not know whether the stars were exploding, being born or reforming. It seems like we are going back to square one where we assumed that an explosion of a star is just a regular cycle of stars, as are pulsars and any other variation of activity.

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