White dwarf pair will trigger a supernova — in 700 million years

illustration of two white dwarfs nearing collision

Two white dwarfs, illustrated, will eventually spiral together and explode as a type 1a supernova.

ESO, L. Calçada

Two white dwarfs, dense remnants of stars, are set to spiral together and explode in about 700 million years. With a combined mass about 1.76 times that of the sun, this is the first pair known to be massive enough to generate a powerful explosion known as a type 1a supernova, researchers report in the February 9 Nature.

The duo sits inside the Henize 2-428 nebula, about 4,600 light-years away in the constellation Aquila. When they collide, they will combine into a single star that will be too massive to support its own weight, triggering a collapse that will destroy the star.

Christopher Crockett is an Associate News Editor. He was formerly the astronomy writer from 2014 to 2017, and he has a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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