“We’d never seen that, period, in astronomy.”
These are the undead cosmic flares of a killer, Bella.
As Space.com reports, scientists at Cornell University have detected renewed signs of life in a deceased star — a striking, never-before-seen discovery offering researchers an illuminating glimpse into the exotic netherworld of star births and deaths.
The far-off star in question, located roughly a billion lightyears from Earth in a distant galaxy and affectionately nicknamed “the Tasmanian Devil,” was already considered rare due to the nature of its initial death. When it died, it triggered something called a “luminous fast blue optical transient,” or LFBOT — a massive, superpowerful cataclysm that gave off an intense blue glow. But while LFBOTs shine brighter than more common supernovas, as Space.com notes, they’re known to fade faster, flaming out within just days.
Until now, that is. According to the Cornell astronomers’ research, which was published yesterday in the journal Nature, the Tasmanian Devil LFBOT is still radiating intermittent flashes of blue light, as powerful and radiant as the star’s original cataclysmic flares — a fascinating glimmer of activity from a stellar corpse.
“We had never seen anything like that before — something so fast, and the brightness as strong as the original explosion months later — in any supernova or FBOT,” Anna Ho, an assistant professor of astronomy at the university, said in a statement. “We’d never seen that, period, in astronomy.”
Per a university press release, Ho first spotted the Tasmanian Devil a little over a year ago in September 2022 while sieving through data from the Zwicky Transient Facility. The researcher and her team kept an eye on the rare celestial event as it faded, and were taken aback to notice, weeks later, that the presumed dead star was continuing to emit sporadic, minutes-long flares.
Using observations from over a dozen different telescopes, the team continued to monitor the celestial site, ultimately concluding that the maybe-not-so-dead star emitted 14 separate, powerful LFBOT-like flares over the course of 120 days.
“Amazingly, instead of fading steadily as one would expect, the source briefly brightened again — and again, and again,” said Ho. “LFBOTs are already a kind of weird, exotic event, so this was even weirder.”
Even in death, it seems, stars might just be more alive than we think.
The “corpse is not just sitting there,” said Ho, “it’s active and doing things that we can detect.”
More on stars: Scientists Puzzled by Stars That Disappeared from the Sky
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