Astronomers are in shock over the so-called “zombie star” that refuses to die.
Supernovae have historically been considered to be the terminal explosion for stars, leaving behind a neutron star or a black hole.
Just a few years ago, two supernovae had never been spotted in the same place.
One star, however, is breaking all the rules. What scientists have dubbed the “zombie star” has already exploded twice, and still refuses to die.
Astronomers are trying to decide if there’s an underlying and unusual cause for the zombie star’s abnormally long survival, or if this is a common occurrence in the universe being observed for the first time.
Fox News reports:
A supernova that “cheated” death more than once is baffling astronomers — and still refuses to die. It’s exploded twice already, but 1,000 days later, its light still continues to shine.
The star, dubbed the “zombie star,” was first discovered by astronomers in 2014 when it exploded — the first sign of its death, according to a report published by Nature, the international journal of science, on Wednesday. A supernova typically shines for about 100 days after the explosion before it fades into a neutron star or a black hole. But the iPTF14hls star that is 500 million light-years away — one light-year is equal to 5.9 trillion miles — didn’t follow that trend.
After the star exploded in 2014, astronomers thought they could expect what would happen next. But the star continued to shine, getting brighter and fainter in a repeating pattern. To this day, the star continues to shine.
The surprising survival of the star led to an investigation, and astronomers discovered that it had already exploded in 1954.
The supernova apparently blew away only the star’s outer layers, leaving it with enough energy to continue as a star and repeat the process.
A Harvard astronomer, Avi Loeb, offers one theory that could explain why the zombie star refuses to die. He says a nearby black hole or a magnetar, which is actually a neutron star with an extremely strong magnetic field, could explain the strange phenomenon.
Loeb is the astronomy chairman at Harvard University.
Fox News continues:
“We thought we’ve seen everything there is to see in supernovae after seeing so many of them, but you always get surprised by the universe. This one just really blew away everything we thought we understood about them,” Arcavi said.
Arcavi added that they never saw two supernovae happening in the same exact spot before. Two theories have been floated about the latest discovery. The star, which was previously 100 times larger than the sun, was so big and hot in its core that the previous explosion only blew away its outer layers, but left the core intact. The star was then able to repeat the process again.
[…] Avi Loeb, the astronomy chairman at Harvard University who is not involved in the study, believes it could be a black hole or magnetar — a neutron star with a strong magnetic field — that is causing the star to live.
Arcavi and his team are expected to continue observing the zombie star with the Hubble Space Telescope next month. The astrologist added this could be a common scenario in outer space, but the first they are studying.
“We could actually have missed plenty of them because it kind of masquerades as a normal supernova if you only look at it once,” Arcavi said.
Eventually, the zombie star should use up its reserve of energy and die for good.
In the meantime, will we figure out what is keeping it alive? And how many more of these “zombies” exist in our universe?
Let us know what you think, and sound off in the comments below.