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A New Type Ia Supernova in M82

27 Jan 2014, 22:22 UTC
A New Type Ia Supernova in M82
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Just a couple of days ago, a dim, but quickly brightening, supernova was discovered in M82, the beautiful "cigar galaxy." At "only" 12 million light years away, this is the nearest supernova to Earth since 1987 and the nearest Type Ia supernova since 1972. With the enormous changes in our imaging technology since then (including the launch and subsequent improvements to the Hubble Space Telescope), this is a fantastic opportunity for precision measurements of one of the brightest and most mysterious explosions in the universe.The new supernova in M82, discovered by students at the University College London Observatory.  Photo by Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of ArizonaDiscovering more about the nature of Type Ia supernovae has been one of the primary goals of the CANDELS project. These supernovae begin as stars like our sun, which have shed their outer layers at the end of their lives and become white dwarfs. White dwarfs are the extremely dense cores of a burned-out star, and although they're only the size of our earth, they have the mass of our entire sun.  The detonation happens when a nearby star adds even more mass onto this dwarf -- when the weight becomes too much, nuclear fusion ignites it ...

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