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Artist's impression of a star throwing off material during a supernova. NASA
Astronomy

This ‘Zombie Star’ Had Repeated Supernova Explosions Instead of Dying

A star exploded six decades ago and somehow survived, and apparently exploded several more times during the last few decades of its life.

“This supernova breaks everything we thought we knew about how they work.”
iPTF14hls ​grew ​bright ​and ​dim ​again ​at ​least ​five ​times ​over ​two ​years. ​This ​behavior ​has ​never ​been seen ​in ​previous ​supernovae, ​which ​typically ​remain ​bright ​for ​approximately ​100 ​days ​and ​then ​fade. Adapted ​from ​Arcavi ​et ​al. ​2017, ​Nature. | Credit: ​LCO/S. ​Wilkinson
Astronomers uncovered an explosion in 1954 (at left) at the exact same location that iPTF14hls exploded in 2014. The supernova observed in 1954 wasn't seen in follow-up images, such as one shown at right taken in 1993. This means that iPTF14hls experienced at least two supernova explosions in its lifetime instead of being utterly destroyed as astronomers expect. Scientists are still seeking a full explanation for this "zombie star" surviving. | POSS/DSS/LCO/S. Wilkinson