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Do All Stars Die in a Single Supernova Explosion?

The final stage of a giant star’s life is a blaze of glory called a "supernova." Typically, the massive implosion of the star’s core releases energy and spews material into the cosmos at high speeds, burning brightly for up to 100 days before fading into oblivion. Then there’s iPTF14hls, a star has survived five separate supernova events, according to astronomers. Dubbed a “zombie star” for its ability to seemingly come back from the dead, iPTF14hls was first seen exploding in September 2014, and then again in 2015 -- but it didn't fade, shining brightly for 600 days.

A star is reborn:

  • “This supernova breaks everything we thought we knew about how they work,” said Iair Arcavi, co-author of a study that appeared in a 2017 issue of the journal Nature.

  • Researchers found that the star’s brightness varied by as much as 50 percent, brightening and dimming on an irregular schedule -- as though it was exploding over and over again.

  • Looking at archival data, scientists discovered an explosion that occurred in 1954 in the same location, suggesting that the star might have survived an earlier supernova explosion, too.

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