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Rare Supernova May Help Resolve a Longstanding Debate on Explosive Triggering Mechanisms

Posted by Guy Pirro 05/20/2019 01:53AM

Rare Supernova May Help Resolve a Longstanding Debate on Explosive Triggering Mechanisms

Detection of a Type Ia supernova with an unusual chemical signature by a team of astronomers at the Carnegie Institution for Science, may hold the key to solving a longstanding mystery of how these violent explosions get triggered. Type Ia supernovae originate from the thermonuclear explosion of white dwarfs that are part of a binary system. But what exactly triggers the explosion of the white dwarf -- the dead core left after a Sun-like star exhausts its nuclear fuel -- is still a great puzzle. A prevailing idea is that, the white dwarf gains matter from its companion star, causing the explosion. But whether or not this is the correct theory has been hotly debated for decades. Although hydrogen is the most abundant element in the Universe, it is almost never seen in Type Ia supernova explosions. That is why seeing hydrogen emissions in this specific supernova, called ASASSN-18tb, was so surprising and may provide a key clue to understanding what triggered the explosion.


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