Nasa has discovered a chameleon supernova that challenges existing models of how stars explode

A supernova is showing some very erratic behavior for an exploding star. The supernova, designated SN 2014C has dramatically changed its appearance over the duration of the past year, leading scientists to dub it the ‘chameleon supernova.’ The supernova ejected matter towards the end of its life, which is unusual and never before observed by scientists. The matter ejection so late into the supernova challenges existing scientific models of exploding stars.

Raffaella Margutti, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois said “This ‘chameleon supernova’ may represent a new mechanism of how massive stars deliver elements created in their cores to the rest of the universe.” Margutti lead the investigation into the strange supernova that resulted in a paper on the subject being published in The Astrophysical Journal.

Scientists used the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuStar) satellite to observe the supernova. NuStar is uniquely equipped to observe x-rays with the highest energy levels, allowing scientists to decipher the rate at which matter was being ejected, and where most of the matter was accumulated in the external shell. The NuStar satellite allows the scientists to observe how the temperatures of the electrons accelerated by the supernova changed over time.

Although the supernova is 36 million to 46 million light-years away, stellar explosions like these release the matter necessary for life on earth. The calcium, iron and sodium in your blood were cooked in hearts of these stars before they were exploded and traveled across the universe. The astronomer Carl Sagan had famously said, “We’re made of star stuff.”

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