Scientific American June 2016
Every year, thousands of exploding stars appear in a bizarre variety of shapes. Astronomers want to know what will make them boom
About every second, somewhere in our observable universe, another sun is destroyed in a star catastrophe – when a star pulsates, collides, collapses into a black hole or explodes as a supernova. This dynamic side of the universe, lost in the apparent calm of the night sky, has recently come to the fore in astronomical research. For nearly a century, scientists have tried to keep track of what has happened over billions of years of cosmic evolution, but it is only recently that we have begun analyzing celestial events on time scales of days and hours to observe the fleeting life and death of stars.
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