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News Release 5 of 954

August 6, 2014 01:00 PM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-2014-32

NASA's Hubble Finds Supernova Star System Linked to Potential 'Zombie Star'

August 6, 2014: Supernovae are the most powerful stellar explosions in the universe. Some of them are produced by the detonation of a white dwarf, the stripped-down core of an ordinary star at the end of its life. But 12 years ago, astronomers began noticing weak stellar blasts, a kind of mini-supernova. When one such explosion occurred in the galaxy NGC 1309, astronomers looking through Hubble archival images found for the first time the star system that produced the supernova blast of a white dwarf.

The inset panel from 2013 shows the supernova; archival Hubble data from 2005 and 2006 show the progenitor system for the supernova, thought to be a binary system containing a helium star transferring material to a white dwarf that exploded.

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Credit: NASA, ESA, C. McCully and S. Jha (Rutgers University), R. Foley (University of Illinois), and Z. Levay (STScI)

Acknowledgment: NASA, ESA, The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), and A. Riess (STScI)