Astronomers discover a stellar puzzle

June 15, 2007

Astronomers in Northern Ireland are trying to explain a puzzle discovered this decade -- a bright 2004 stellar flare followed two years later by a supernova.

The incredibly bright flare was followed by a type 1b supernova in the same place, making the two events an unlikely coincidence and something of a puzzle.

Andrea Pastorello and colleagues at Queens University in Belfast are offering a few explanations. They posit the initial flare could have come from a Wolf-Rayet star -- a very hot, massive, dying star that throws out a lot of gas. Or it could have come from a binary system, containing the supernova and a luminous blue variable -- a bright, hypergiant, variable star that flares periodically.

The conclusions in this week's issue of the journal Nature and support another study by an independent group of astronomers in the journal Astrophysics.

Copyright 2007 by United Press International

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