In rare supernova, cocoon star dies super-quick death

This NASA animation shows a rare supernova type known as a rapidly evolving luminous, transient, or FELT. NASA’s Kepler space telescope has found an object.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech )

NASA’s Kepler space telescope captured a dying star, the last moments of his life, revealing a violent explosion unlike any other supernova.

A new study from the Australian National University (ANU) investigating the death throes of the star, who was locked in a dense shell of gas and dust. As a massive star nears the end of his life, a bright explosion expels stellar material into space, in what is known as a supernova.

In this case, if the massive amounts of energy that is released from the cocoon star punched in the shell of gas and dust, almost all the kinetic energy directly converted to light. The star of the fall lasted only a few days, so the death was about 10 times faster than that of a typical supernova, according to a statement from ANU. [Supernova Photos: Great Images of Star Explosions]

“We have discovered that there is another way that stars die and distribute the material back into space,” Brad Tucker, a researcher from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, said in the statement.

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This kind of quick supernova is a rare event known as a rapidly evolving luminous temporary (FELT). Due to the short duration of these events, astronomers know very little about Felt, in comparison with traditional supernova.

The Kepler space telescope is designed to hunt for exoplanets outside of our solar system. The instrument detects planets by watching for stars to dim as planets pass in front of them. Astronomers have used Kepler to find, black holes, supernovas and other explosions in space.

Traditional supernova models do not easily explain the rapid evolution of Felt. However, the Kepler space telescope can make precise measurements of the sudden changes in the starlight, allowing astronomers to create a new model for Felt, according to the new study statement.

The new findings suggest that Felt to represent “a new kind of supernova who will have a short turbo boost in the brightness of the environment,” says the study, published March 26 in the journal Nature Astronomy.

“With the help of Kepler’s high-speed light-measuring capabilities, we have been able to see these exotic star-explosion in the smallest detail,” said Tucker. “With the imminent launch of NASA’s new space telescope, TESS, we hope to have even more of these rare and violent explosions.”

The new work sheds light on the different cycles of stars, and the violent explosions such as these can affect the planets in orbit around that star. Tucker said in the statement.

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