Giant Supernova May Be Due to Cloud of Star Smithereens

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It’s been a big week for astro-scientist types. First a gigantic supernova, then a ninth planet. We have yet to confirm the planet, but a team of scientists has now suggested a possible explanation for the supernova: a fast spinning magnetar.

When researchers announced confirmation of the record-breaking stellar explosion ASASSN-15lh last week, they mused that such a star, called a magnetar, wasn’t enough to explain the supernova’s unusual brightness. To create the energy seen in this explosion, the magnetar’s core would have to be spinning so fast that it would break apart.

But a new analysis using more detailed calculations claims it could happen, if powerful magnetic fields interacted with a big enough cloud of star smithereens.

….Previous calculations suggested that any star that could produce as much energy as ASASSN-15lh, which would outshine the moon if it were in our galaxy, wouldn’t survive long enough to become a magnetar. But now Melina Bersten of the National Scientific and Technical Research Council in Argentina and her colleagues suggest that the stellar corpse that remains after the explosion could pump extra energy into a cloud of gas surrounding it, and produce the superluminous supernova discovered last summer….That cloud of stellar leftovers would have to be pretty extreme, though: at least six times the mass of the sun.

Star smithereens? Is that a real word? Somebody help me out here.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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