Fireworks near the Big Dipper

Astronomers see a star as it explodes

By Stephen Ornes, 16:20 PM September 14, 2011

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Twenty-one million years ago, a white dwarf star exploded in a burst of light and energy that began racing through space in all directions. In late August, a robotic telescope in California detected evidence of the event. Word went out to stargazers all over the world, who turned their telescopes to watch the light show.

They were delighted. A star explosion is called a supernova, and it’s rare for astronomers to see one that’s so close. (The star that exploded was about 21 million light-...

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