NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt

ScienceShot: Exploding Star Concealed by Dust

If a star explodes behind a dust cloud, will anyone see it? Astronomers did, but at first they weren't sure what they were looking at. Using the Spitzer Space Telescope to search for a supermassive black hole at the center of a distant galaxy, the team discovered something unexpected: a cloud of hot dust--much hotter than normal. After further study, the scientists concluded that the heat had been caused by the explosion of a star at least 50 times more massive than our sun. But before the star went supernova, it twice ejected gas into space. Eventually the gas condensed into dust, and the dust absorbed the blinding light of the explosion, converting it to heat, which appeared as infrared radiation to Spitzer's detectors, the team reports online this month in The Astrophysical Journal. Astronomers figure that in about a decade, the remnants of the star blasted out into space by the supernova will slam into the first dust cloud. If it does, x-ray telescopes should detect the effects, and a previously unobserved type of supernova will be confirmed.

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