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Podcast: Inevitable Supernova

July 25th, 2006 by me

Artist impression of RS Ophiuchi. Image credit: CfAClick to enlarge
Consider the dramatic binary system of RS Ophiuchi. A tiny white dwarf star, about the size of our Earth, is locked in orbit with a red giant star. A stream of material is flowing from the red giant to the white dwarf. Every 20 years or so, the accumulated material erupts as a nova explosion, brightening the star temporarily. But this is just a precursor to the inevitable cataclysm – when the white dwarf collapses under this stolen mass, and then explodes as a supernova. Dr. Jennifer Sokoloski has been studying RS Ophiuchi since it flared up earlier this year; she discusses what they’ve learned so far, and what’s to come.

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