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The Supernova That Cried Wolf


The new SN 2009ip result suggests that stars like Eta Carinae could potentially blow up at any time. Photo: Nathan Smith/NASA

The new SN 2009ip result suggests that stars like Eta Carinae could potentially blow up at any time. Photo: Nathan Smith/NASA

Astronomers have announced that a massive star, which they have watched repeatedly mimic a supernova since 2009, has finally exploded for real. The report was presented at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Long Beach, Calif. by Jon Mauerhan of the Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona, in collaboration with Nathan Smith, also of the UA, and Alex Filippenko of the University of California, Berkeley.

The result is of special interest because it provides new critical information on the final death throes of massive stars in the years leading up to their explosion. The work has been accepted for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The object is SN 2009ip, a luminous extragalactic transient first detected in 2009 in the spiral galaxy NGC 7259, which lies 67 million light-years away in the constellation Piscis Austrinus. A “transient” is an astronomical object that can be observed for a short time. Soon after discovery in 2009, the outburst of SN 2009ip actually was recognized to be a non-terminal event, one in which the star in question survived.

Full Story: http://www.uanews.org/story/supernova-cried-wolf

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