Astronomers are left puzzled by a cosmic 'mystery' 350 years in the making

ASTRONOMERS using state-of-the-art technology have discovered a stellar explosion first seen 350 years ago is much bigger and much farther than previously thought.

PUBLISHED: 17:14, Wed, Nov 25, 2020 | UPDATED: 17:14, Wed, Nov 25, 2020

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The stellar explosion of a star dubbed CK Vulpeculae was first spotted by the French monk Anthelme Voituret in 1670. In the months following its discovery, the event grew in brightness until it almost matched Polaris, the Northern Star. CK Vulpeculae faded from view after about a year, leading astronomers to believe it was a nova - a type of stellar explosion that occurs in systems bearing a Sun-like star and white dwarf


But a team of international astronomers using the Gemini North GNIRS instruments has now dismantled theory, offering new insight into the explosion.

Originally spotted in the constellation of Vulpecula, the astronomers found the explosion happened fives times further away than previous estimates.

Even more surprisingly, this puts the 1670 event into a class of much more energetic astronomical phenomena.

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These events are too bright to be regular novas but are also too faint to be even bigger supernovas - explosions caused by the death of supermassive stars.

READ MORE: Milky Way: Astronomers discover evidence of 'violent' collision

Space news: The nebula CK VulpeculaeSpace news: The CK Vulpeculae nebula which has vexed astronomers (Image: International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/Travis Rector,Mahdi Zamani & Davide de Martin)

Space news: CK Vulpeculae seen in spaceSpace news: CK Vulpeculae was first spotted by a French monk in 1670 (Image: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/S. P. S. Eyres)

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Five years ago, a team of astronomers suggested CK Vulpeculae appeared in our night skies after the head-on collision of two stars.

And just three years later, the same astronomers tweaked their theory, suggesting one of these stars was a red dwarf - an example of the most numerous stars in the Milky Way galaxy.

The new theory came to light after isotopes of aluminium were detected around the explosion.

But the theory was further complicated when in 2018 a separate team of astronomers proposed the 1670 event was produced by a brown dwarf and white dwarf colliding.

Now, researchers have found CK

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