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Amazing video: Hubble watches as a catastrophic stellar explosion fades

6 Oct 2020, 13:00 UTC
Amazing video: Hubble watches as a catastrophic stellar explosion fades
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NGC 2525 is a spectacular spiral galaxy located about 70 million light years away in the direction of the constellation Puppis. As galaxies go, that's relatively close to us — the Universe is a bit roomy, folks — and that makes it an excellent target for astronomers who want to understand how the Universe is expanding.

That's because every now and again, a star in a galaxy will explode. And not just any star, but a white dwarf. These can explode in one of a couple of ways; it can collide with another white dwarf, or, if it's in a binary relationship with a normal star like the Sun, it can steal material off a companion star which builds up on the white dwarf's surface, eventually detonating like a thermonuclear bomb.

When that happens, the star explodes, tearing itself apart in a colossal supernova. These brighten rapidly, generally peaking in a couple of weeks, and then fade over months and years. They all tend to explode with the same brightness (once you correct for a few factors that vary between specific stars), and that makes them what we call standard candles: If you can measure how rapidly it brightens and ...

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