Rare supernova burst shines light on its mysterious origins

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Debris blown off a dying star collided with its companion, creating a blast of ultraviolet radiation that is helping scientists better understand the evolution of one of the key tools to measure the expansion of the universe.

Known as Type Ia supernovas, these rare events have led scientists to argue for two different theories, but new observations of a recent supernova by NASA’s space-based Swift telescope suggest that both may be correct.

“The pulse of radiation detected by Swift is probably produced when the supernova-ejected material slams into a companion star,” principal investigator Yi Cao, a graduate student at the California Institute of Technology, told Space.com by email. Cao served as lead author on a recent paper from an international collaboration Read more…

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