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[Slashdot] - The Galaxy's Brightest Explosions Go Nuclear With an Unexpected Trigger

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sciencehabit writes: Type Ia supernovae, a bright and long-lasting brand of stellar explosion, play a vital role in cosmic chemical manufacturing, forging in their fireballs most of the iron and other metals that pervade the universe. The explosions also serve as "standard candles," assumed to shine with a predictable brightness. Their brightness as seen from Earth provides a cosmic yardstick, used among other things to discover "dark energy," the unknown force that is accelerating the expansion of the universe. Astronomers have long thought that the blasts come from white dwarfs, burnt out stars once like our Sun, reignited after stealing material from a companion red giant. But evidence is mounting that other mechanisms may be causing white dwarfs to explode, making their standard candle status a puzzle.

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