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Supernova Spectacular

Starburst galaxies shed light on the early universe

10:27am, July 15, 2003

Peering deep into the maelstrom of two colliding galaxies, astronomers have discovered a cluster of massive stars exploding like firecrackers. From what they've seen, researchers estimate that in this pair of merging galaxies, dubbed Arp 299, a star dies in a supernova explosion every 2 years. In quiescent galaxies such as the Milky Way, an entire century can go by between such spectacles.

Studies of Arp 299 offer astronomers a rare opportunity to examine a collection of stars exploding in an environment dense with gas and dust, where the rates of both stellar birth and death are high. But it's not just the fireworks that have drawn astronomers to Arp 299 and similar cosmic venues, says Susan G. Neff of NAS

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