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This supernova was supposed to die — until it got brighter

Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Science & Technology News

Among the most remarkable things about iPTF14hls is how unremarkable it looks, Arcavi added.

"This is one of the things I love most about this supernova, that its spectrum is so vanilla," he said.

That means that any explanation for this supernova also has to account for more common supernovas -- and the stars that birth.

"A better understanding of iPTF14hls could provide insight into the evolution of the most massive stars, the production of the brightest supernovae and possibly the birth of black holes that have masses near 40 solar masses -- such as those associated with the first direct detection of gravitational waves," Woosley wrote.

It also hints that there may be many other long-lived supernovas that have escaped notice because they've been masquerading as more typical stellar explosions. There may be more of them already recorded in the archives, waiting to be found.

The scientist said they're continuing to observe this supernova to see whether, as time goes by, they'll be able to peer past the expanding outer layers as they spread and become more transparent, to see the energy source within before it fades completely.

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