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12 December 2013 1:00 pm ,
Vol. 342 ,
The iconic 125-year-old Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton near San Jose, California, is facing the threat of closure...
Recent results from the Curiosity Mars rover have helped scientists formulate a plan for the next phase of its mission...
A new, remarkably powerful drug that cripples the hepatitis C virus (HCV) came to market last week, but it sells for $...
In pretoothbrush populations, gumlines would often be marred by a thick, visible crust of calcium phosphate, food...
Evolutionary biologists have long studied how the Mexican tetra, a drab fish that lives in rivers and creeks but has...
Victorian astronomers spent countless hours laboriously charting the positions of stars in the sky. Such sky mapping,...
In an ambitious project to study 1000 years of sickness and health, researchers are excavating the graveyard of the now...
Stefan Behnisch has won awards for designing science labs and other buildings that are smart, sustainable, and...
- 12 December 2013 1:00 pm , Vol. 342 , #6164
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ScienceShot: A New Class of Supernova
26 March 2013 2:00 pm
Some of the most powerful explosions in the universe just got a bit more varied. Astronomers have already categorized two broad groups of supernovae: type Ia supernovae presumed to result from the complete disruption of a white dwarf star, and the type II, Ib, and Ic supernovae thought to explode when the core of giant star collapses. Now, they say that a type of exploding star first thought to be an unusual sort of type Ia supernova is actually a different class of supernova altogether. Explosions of these stars, dubbed type Iax, release somewhere between 1% and 50% the energy of a type Ia supernova, and there are hints that in many cases a remnant of the star may survive the initial outburst. Like type Ia supernovae (but unlike the smaller, garden-variety exploding stars called novae), spectra of type Iax stars don't include any signs of hydrogen. Most of the 25 stars share more than 25 different characteristics—a sign that the stars probably not only look alike but are physically similar, the researchers report online and in a forthcoming issue of The Astrophysical Journal. Type Iax supernovae most likely form in binary star systems when a superdense, carbon- and oxygen-rich white dwarf star (center of disk at left) robs material from its helium-rich partner, eventually accumulating enough mass on its surface to trigger an explosion. Astronomers likely have discovered so few type Iax supernovae only because they are faint, not because they are rare: The team estimates that for every 100 type Ia supernovae explosions that occur, there are about 31 type Iax supernovae.
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