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Thursday, May 10, 2007


Some stars really go with a bang, suggest this new research reported by the NY Times:

The cataclysm — a monster more than a hundred times as energetic as the typical supernova in which the more massive stars end their lives — might be an example of a completely new type of explosion, astronomers said. Such a blast — proposed but never seen — would explain how the earliest and most massive stars in the universe ended their lives and strewed new elements across space to fertilize future stars and planets.

“It is quite possibly the most massive star that has ever been seen to explode,” said Nathan Smith of the University of California, Berkeley, who estimated the star as “freakishly massive,” about 150 times the mass of the Sun.

And here comes the scary part:
The star bears an eerie resemblance to one in our own galaxy, Eta Carinae, which has been burbling and bubbling in the last few centuries as if getting ready for its own outburst. The observations suggest that the troubled and enigmatic star, thought to weigh in about 120 solar masses, could blow up sooner than theorists had thought. Mario Livio a theorist at the Space Telescope Science Institute who was not involved in the research, said the death of that star could be “the most spectacular star show in history.”

Well, let's hope it doesn't happen before we've got ourselves out of the cradle-Earth. Such an explosion may sterilize completely the planet. Ouch! Well, there's no reason to worry about something we can't avoid. Yet. One day, I foresee people prodding almost exploding stars like children prod sleeping dogs with sticks. Hopefully, the star will not chase us to destruction.

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