Study witnesses first moments of star dying in finest detail | 11/30/2018 | Staff
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An international research team including The Australian National University (ANU) has used the Kepler space telescope in coordination with ground-based telescopes to witness the first moments of a star dying in unprecedented detail.

The astronomers witnessed the star dying a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, as part of a project that aims to solve the mystery of how stars explode.

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Dr. Brad Tucker, one of the lead researchers of the survey, said about 170 million years later on 4 February 2018 the array of high-powered telescopes detected the light emanating from the exploding star, otherwise known as a supernova called SN 2018oh.

"Kepler—in its final days before running out of fuel and being retired—observed the minute changes in brightness of the star's explosion from its very beginnings, while the ground-based telescopes detected changes in colour and the atomic make-up of this dying star," said Dr. Tucker from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

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"With the combined data from these telescopes, astronomers achieved what they had hoped for—an unprecedented observation of the onset of a star's death."

SN 2018oh is an example of a Type Ia supernova—the kind that astronomers use to measure the expansion of the Universe and probe the nature of dark energy.

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"Prior to Kepler, it was nearly impossible to study the early stages of a star explosion," Dr. Tucker said.

A typical Type Ia supernova brightens over the course of three weeks before gradually fading away, but this supernova brightened rapidly a few days after the initial explosion—about three times...
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