On average, a supernova explosion will occur once every 50 years in a galaxy the size of our Milky Way and radiate more energy than 10 billion suns. They are also the primary source of heavy elements in the universe, including such precious metals as gold, platinum and titanium.
Up until recently, these bright star burst which may occur at the end of a star’s life cycle, came in two varieties. Type Ia supernovas take place in binary star systems in which a white dwarf siphons off mass from its binary companion before a nuclear reaction ignites, whilst Type II supernovas occur after a massive supergiant star runs out of fuel and collapses under its own gravity.
Now, astronomers have added a new type of mini-supernova to the list, called a Type Iax supernova. In this instance, the stellar blast, too, takes place in a binary systems containing a white dwarf, but the white dwarf star could actually end up surviving the explosion. Furthermore, the supernova may only shine a hundredth times as bright as its companions accounting for why so few have been discovered so far.
Commenting on the new mini-supernova type discovery, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics lead researcher Ryan Foley, said: “The star will be battered and bruised, but it might live to see another day. Type Iax supernovas aren’t rare, they’re just faint. For more than a thousand years, humans have been observing supernovas. This whole time, this new class has been hiding in the shadows.”