‘Chameleon’ Supernova Challenges Notions About How Stars Evolve

In the article, ‘Chameleon’ Supernova Challenges Notions About How Stars Evolve, on space.com, author Samantha Mathewson describes the odd behavior of a supernova at the end of its life. There are two types of supernova explosions. Type I is where there is very little hydrogen present and Type II, which are very rare, have an abundance of hydrogen. Stars begin their lives turning hydrogen in to helium. A supernova death occurs when a large star runs out of hydrogen as fuel. While studying  a supernova called SN 2014C, astronomers reveal that the supernova released hydrogen and other heavier elements unusually late in its life before it exploded. This supernova resides in a spiral galaxy approximately 36 million to 46 million light years from Earth. It may be called a ‘chameleon’ supernova do to it looking like something other than itself. This may show how elements are delivered to the rest of the universe from a massive star’s core. This is how the universe recycles. The star gives back to its environment, late in its life, the elements it has produced over its lifetime. These elements are what help the birth of stars and other planets. Astronomers only question why SN 2014C would expel so much hydrogen before exploding. NASA’s NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array) satellite revealed that SN 2014C has transformed itself from a Type I to a Type II supernova following the collapse of its core. The shock waves from the explosion hit a shell of material, mostly hydrogen based, that suggests that the star must have thrown it out centuries before the end of its life. Astronomers say that this supernova is challenging the way they view stellar evolution and the release if elements necessary for life.

This article relates to our conceptual objective, “I can describe how stars evolve and die.” The Stellar Evolution section in our lecture tutorials workbook explains the contrast in low-mass and high-mass star deaths. Low mass stars eventually eject its outer layers to produce a planetary nebula with a white dwarf at its core. High mass stars explode as a Type II supernova leaving behind a neutron star or, depending on how massive the star was, a black hole. This article describing the findings of SN 2014C challenge our knowledge of how stars die.

While I was reading this article, I could not believe how fascinating the information was. I love how the universe keeps throwing curve balls showing us on Earth that anything can happen out there among the stars. These new discoveries are what drive us to understand how the universe works. Overall, I really enjoyed the article.


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