All stars will eventually die. But we’ve never seen ones die like this before.
When you look up at the sky, most of the points of light we see appear to be fixed. On night-to-night timescales, the distant stars and galaxies, with the exception of a few notable variables, appear to be relatively unchanged. But every once in a while, a spectacular event will occur, giving off a transient signal that outshines a typical star’s brightness by factors of many billions. These events fall into many classes: supernovae, gamma ray bursts, and even more exotic events, and part of the fun is uncovering exactly what’s going on as we discover these new classes of objects for the first time.
Scientist Anna Ho, PhD candidate at Caltech, is right on the cutting edge of that frontier, and brings us an insider’s look at this exciting and rapidly evolving field.