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Thousands of ticking time bomb stars set to explode at any moment are hidden throughout our galaxy, according to a new study.
When massive stars reach the end of their lives, they can explode in fiery fits called supernovas. Astronomers calculate that about three stars explode in a specific category of supernova called Type 1a every thousand years in the Milky Way. That means that within a few thousand light-years of Earth there should be dozens of stars on the verge of exploding.
Yet while scientists know these stars are out there, they've had trouble so far identifying which stars are nearing the explosion point. But the new research offers hope of finding the ticking time bombs more easily by looking for features that had previously been ignored.
"We haven’t found one of these 'time bomb' stars yet in the Milky Way, but this research suggests that we've been looking for the wrong signs," astrophysicist Rosanne Di Stefano of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., said in a statement. "Our work points to a new way of searching for supernova precursors."