Elusive Supernova Progenitors

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Science  14 Nov 2003:
Vol. 302, Issue 5648, pp. 1161-1162
DOI: 10.1126/science.1091612

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The explosion of stars in supernovae are among the most energetic events in the universe. In his Perspective, Van Dyk investigates which stars are responsible for these violent events--a quest that is complicated by the fact that few progenitors of supernovae have been observed directly. Some types of supernovae are believed to be caused by the collapse of massive supergiant stars. However, the most luminous supernovae are widely attributed to the complete destruction of much smaller stars, called white dwarfs. A recent study suggests that a merger of two white dwarfs is responsible for the destructive explosion, but further confirmation is required to verify this scenario.