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South Coast Astronomers Join International Team In Making Interesting Observations About Supernova

Photo by Dan Kasen (Berkely/LBNL)
Simulation of a supernova explosion hitting a companion star

Astronomers on the South Coast were part of an international team of scientists who made some important observations about a supernova.

NASA’s Kepler satellite caught a rare glimpse of a supernova, which is the explosion of a star. And Goleta-based Las Cumbres Observatory – known as LCO -- used its network of 21 robotic telescopes around the world to observe it.

Andy Howell, an LCO scientist, says he helped determine that it was a Type 1A supernova.

“It’s a supernova that is the kind that we use to map out distances in the universe,” he says.

Type 1A is the explosion of a dense white dwarf star that has a companion star.

“We think the supernova explosion ran into the other star, and then it was a fairly big star. That tells us something about the origins of the supernova” Howell says.

He says these supernovas produce most of the iron in the universe, and so, some of the iron in your blood came from supernovas like this.