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- Artist's impression of a Vampire Star - A supernova is one way that a star can end its life, exploding in a display of grandiose fireworks. One family of supernovae, called Type Ia supernovae, are of particular interest in cosmology as they can be used as standard candles to measure distances in the Universe and so can be used to calibrate the accelerating expansion that is driven by dark energy. One defining characteristic of Type Ia supernovae is the lack of hydrogen in their spectrum. Yet hydrogen is the most common chemical element in the Universe. Such supernovae most likely arise in systems composed of two stars, one of them being the end product of the life of sun-like stars, or white dwarfs. When such white dwarfs, acting as stellar vampires that suck matter from their companion, become heavier than a given limit, they become unstable and explode. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser - Video streamed by www.AllthingsScience.com
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