Astronomers witnessed a previously unknown type of stellar explosion called a micronova. The process involves thermonuclear blasts at polar regions of a type of burned-out star called a white dwarf. The reaction happens after the white dwarf siphons material from a companion star.
On Wednesday, researchers said a micronova is by far the least powerful type of star explosion now known. It falls short to the blast called a nova, in which a white dwarf’s entire surface blows up. A supernova occurs during the death throes of some giant stars.
Micronovae can be observed by Earth as bursts of light lasting close to 10 hours. Astronomers documented three white dwarfs, one 1,680 light years away from Earth, one 3,720 light years away and one 4,900 light years away. Lead author of the study and astronomer at Durham University England Simone Scaringi said “The discovery was an unexpected surprise.”
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