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Hubble Telescope Spots A 'Zombie Star' 110 Million Light Years Away From Earth

Update Date: Aug 07, 2014 11:53 AM EDT

With the help of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, a team of researchers has spotted a star system that could have left behind a 'zombie star' after a weak supernova explosion, according to a new study.

A supernova generally wipes out the exploding white dwarf, or dying star. However, in this case the faint supernova may have left behind a surviving portion of the dying star. 

In the Hubble images taken years before the stellar explosion, astronomers noticed a blue companion star feeding energy to a white dwarf. Astronomers believe, the process might have ignited a nuclear reaction and released this weak supernova blast. 

The supernova, Type lax, is less common than its brighter cousin, Type la. 

"Astronomers have been searching for decades for the star systems that produce Type Ia supernova explosions," said scientist Saurabh Jha of Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey, in the press release. "Type Ia's are important because they're used to measure vast cosmic distances and the expansion of the universe. But we have very few constraints on how any white dwarf explodes. The similarities between Type Iax's and normal Type Ia's make understanding Type Iax progenitors important, especially because no Type Ia progenitor has been conclusively identified. This discovery shows us one way that you can get a white dwarf explosion."

The findings of the study will be published in the journal Nature

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