In a continuously evolving universe, supernovae are a common phenomena. Their occurrence signifies the end of the lifetime of whichever star they happen in. Each star typically undergoes a supernova before it eventually ceases to be a main sequence star.
On average, each supernova happens over a span of 100 days before it subsequently fades away into the vast expanse of cosmic space. This general expectation has recently been defied by supernova iPTF14hls which has been highly active as a supernova explosion for approximately 600 days so far. Supernova iPTF14hls a Type II-P supernova that was discovered in 2014 using the Intermediate Palomar Transient Factory telescope. What exactly is going on with this particular supernova that is responsible for this odd behavior? Well, one hypothesis could be that its’ star might have had a humungous amount of hydrogen in its collapsing core that was still undergoing nuclear fusion. In fact, one could also argue that the prolonged brightness witnessed in iPTF14hls could have had happened as material from the hydrogen-rich envelope of the star gradually spread out while triggering multiple mini-explosions.
The plot of brightness vs time depicted in the figure on the left demonstrates how iPTF14hls compares to any general supernova ever recorded. Its brightness is far much larger than that of any typical supernova. Another really interesting feature of iPTF14hls is that it comprises many sharp fluctuations in its brightness levels. This perhaps reveals the mini-explosions aforementioned. Astronomers are currently in the process of deciphering what exactly could have been responsible for such a bizarre cosmic occurrence. For now, we just remain in awe until sufficient knowledge has been amassed about it to enable us understand how it exactly happened.
Find out more about this eccentric explosion by reading this discovery paper.