Zombie white dwarf fed on neighbor star until bursting in a thermonuclear explosion

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Robert Lea is a science journalist in the U.K. whose articles have been published in Physics World, New Scientist, Astronomy Magazine, All About Space, Newsweek and ZME Science. He also writes about science communication for Elsevier and the European Journal of Physics. Rob holds a bachelor of science degree in physics and astronomy from the U.K.’s Open University. Follow him on Twitter @sciencef1rst. (Image credit: ESA/ATG medialab/C. Carreau) Astronomers have made the first detection of a supernova in radio waves, finding that an exploding white dwarf star was feeding from a companion star like a cosmic vampire before it blew.

Rather than drinking blood like the vampires of legend, this undead star was greedily feasting on helium-rich material from its stellar victim, which ultimately led to its own demise.

Designated supernova SN 2020eyj, this Type Ia supernova was discovered by the Zwicky Transient Facility camera on Palomar mountain. This discovery was followed up with the Nordic Optical telescope on La Palma and the large Keck telescope on Hawaii. These follow-ups revealed the material around the supernova was unusually dominated by helium-rich matter, making it different from other Type Ia supernovas.

“Once we saw the signatures of strong interaction with the material from the companion, we tried to also detect it in radio emission,” research lead author and Stockholm University Department of Astronomy postdoctoral researcher Erik Kool said in a statement.”The detection in radio [waves] is the first one of a Type Ia supernova — something astronomers have tried to do for decades.

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