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Friday, 21 July, 2000, 18:05 GMT 19:05 UK
A 10 billion billion billion megaton bomb in space
KPD1930+2752 Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy
KPD1930+2752 is in the constellation of Cygnus
By BBC News Online science editor Dr David Whitehouse

Astronomers have found a star that will produce one of the biggest explosions in our Universe.

The star, known as KPD1930+2752, will explode within the next 200 million years.

UK researchers believe it is the first star of its kind to be found. They say it may hold the clues to where the stuff that makes up our bodies comes from and perhaps to the future of the Universe itself.

KPD1930+2752 is actually two stars. One is a hot, bright star. The other is a faint, dense star, known as a white dwarf.

The hot star whirls around the white dwarf taking just 137 minutes to complete one trip around its companion.

Pierre Maxted and colleagues, from the University of Southampton, say that KPD1930+2752 is doomed. Energy is being lost due to so-called "gravitational radiation." This means that the stars will collide within the next 200 million years.

Metallic debris

When that happens, there will be a gigantic explosion called a supernova. It will be bright enough to be seen from the other side of the Universe.

Technically known as a Type Ia supernova, the explosion will scatter metallic debris into space, particularly iron, nickel and cobalt. Almost all the iron on the Earth comes from Type Ia supernovae which exploded billions of years ago.

Type Ia supernovae are important for astronomers because they all reach roughly the same brightness when they explode. Because of this, astronomers can use them to measure the scale of space.

By using this method, astronomers have found that the Universe is not only expanding, but that the expansion appears to be speeding up.

The method only works if Type Ia supernovae in distant galaxies are the same as the ones nearby.

Now that KPD1930+2752 has been found, it can be studied in detail so that astronomers can work out how Type Ia supernovae in distant galaxies might behave and so, perhaps, help determine the fate of the Universe itself.

The discovery of KPD1930+2752 will be published in Monthly Notices of The Royal Astronomical Society.

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See also:

08 Feb 99 | Sci/Tech
When a star explodes
09 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
Hubble snaps dying stars
12 May 00 | Sci/Tech
Chandra images supernova blast wave
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