“Scientists find an unusual star that hints at a new way stars can die”, UChicago News

January 11, 2024

An artist’s rendition of the explosion that generated an unusual star discovered 13,000 light-years away—and may suggest a new way that stars can die. Image courtesy of University of Chicago/SDSS-V/Me

By Louise Lerner

Scientists have found a star unlike any other one recorded—which may change our picture of how stars die. 

This unusual star, 13,000 light-years away, has an elemental makeup that suggests it was formed in the aftermath of a more massive star exploding in a way that no existing theory seems to explain. According to everything else we know, the original star should have turned into a black hole instead. 

The discovery may rearrange our picture of how stars explode and how some of the heavier elements are made. It also helps us better understand what the first generation of stars in the universe may have looked like. 

“This opens a new window into how the most massive stars in the universe die—and thus also how the elements in the universe are made,” said Alex Ji, assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Chicago and first author on the paper, scheduled to be published Jan. 22 in Astrophysical Journal Letters

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