‘Zombie’ stars are coming back to life and scientists are on the hunt for more

(Representative Image) This stunning false-color picture shows off the many sides of the supernova remnant Cassiopeia ANASA
  • Scientists have found three new ‘Zombie’ stars didn’t die or turn into a blackhole despite breaking the Chandrashekhar limit and exploding into a supernova.
  • Their chemical composition is very different from ordinary stars and despite their name, they move very fast.
  • The survival of these ‘Zombie’ stars being terms as a new type of supernova explosion — type lax.
Like everything in the Universe, stars are also supposed to die when they’re in the ‘supernova’ stage. The end cycle of a star is when it reaches its Chandrashekhar limit, explodes to turn into a black hole or a neutron star, if it doesn’t completely destroy itself.

But there are ‘Zombie’ stars which refuse to die. And, scientists just spotted three of them according to Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. They don’t move nearly as slowly as the zombies in movies.

Rising from the ashes

The three stars — J1603-6613, J1825-3757 and J0905-2510 rose from their flames to be born anew, like a phoenix.

A normal supernovaNASA

The explosion actually burnt most of the ‘Zombie’ stars leaving only Neon, Oxygen and Magnesium behind. A normal star would be made up of Hydrogen, Helium and Iron. So, even though they’re relatively big in size, they have a low mass.

It’s a new kind of supernova

This is only the second time that ‘Zombie’ stars have been observed in the universe. The last time it was the cosmic object called LP 40-365, in 2017.

Our new observations strongly support the interpretation that the new stars, like LP 40-365, are the partly burnt white dwarf accretors that survived disruption from a thermonuclear supernova in a single-degenerate scenario.

Excerpt from study published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

At the time, the authors of the study dubbed these non-dying stars to be in their own supernova class — type lax. It’s different from other supernovae explosions because something of the original white dwarf star is left behind because the final explosion is somehow different, or even weaker.

According to the researchers, the discovery of the new ‘Zombie’ stars with help them find out more details about how the phenomenon came to be. Using their observations, they will try and understand the evolution of these stars, how the explosion mechanism works, the supernova rates and hopefully solve the mystery behind why these stars refuse to die.


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