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Calcium-rich supernova examined with X-rays for first time

Artist's interpretation of the calcium-rich supernova 2019ehk. Shown in orange is the calcium-rich material created in the explosion. Purple coloring represents gas shedded by the star right before the explosion, which then produced bright X-ray emission when the material collided with the supernova shockwave. Credit: Aaron M. Geller/Northwestern University

Half of all the calcium in the universe—including the very calcium in our teeth and bones—was created in the last gasp of dying stars.

Called "calcium-rich supernovae," these stellar explosions are so rare that astrophysicists have struggled to find and subsequently study them. The nature of these supernovae and their mechanism for creating calcium, therefore, have remained elusive.

Now a Northwestern University-led team has potentially uncovered the true nature of these rare, mysterious events. For the first time ever, the researchers examined a calcium-rich supernova with X-ray imaging, which provided an unprecedented glimpse into the star during the last month of its life and ultimate explosion.

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