Giant star disappears with poof, rather than POW!

Dust enveloped what is normally a spectacular explosion

artist rendering ohio st. galaxy
Researchers expecting to see a spectacular supernova explosion from a fading galaxy 3 billion light years from Earth instead were treated to a dust-encased whimper instead of the more typical bang.

Using NASA's Spitzer space telescope researchers from Ohio State University classified the event as odd, but the treat was that it was the first one of its kind ever viewed by astronomers.

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The Ohio State researchers also said: "Because of the alignment of the galaxy with Earth and our sun, astronomers were not able to see what the event looked like to the naked eye while it was happening. But researchers believe that we might see the star brighten a decade or so from now. That's how long it will take for the shockwave from the exploding star to reach the inner dust shell and slam it into the outer shell. Then we'll have something to see here on Earth."

The astronomers said the history of the exploding galaxy dates back to 2008, when they said enormous heat flared from the object for a little over six months, then faded away - one indication the object was a supernova. Over six months, it released more energy that our Sun could produce in its entire lifetime, the researchers stated.  

The astronomers stated that if the source were a supernova, the extreme amount of energy it emitted would qualify it as a big one, or a "hypernova." The temperature of the object was around 1,000 Kelvin (about 700 degrees Celsius) -- only a little hotter than the surface of the planet Venus.  The question was, what could absorb that much light energy and dissipate it as heat? The answer was massive amounts of dust, the astronomers stated.

The researchers used what they learned from the Spitzer survey to determine what kind of star could have spawned the supernova, and how the dust was able to partly muffle the explosion.

A paper in the Astrophysical Journal details the discovery.

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8  

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