In February 2013, meteorite fragments landed in the former Soviet Union causing widespread damage, mass panic and hundreds of meteorinjuries. With no advance warning, the 7,000-ton meteor hit the earth with 300 kilotons of explosive energy, 20 times more powerful than the atom bomb used on Hiroshima. Since then, new research in Israel has been developed that can alert us to the next time an interstellar catastrophe is in the making. This research, conducted by Eran Ofek and his staff from the Weizmann Institute of Science, uncovered a little known secret about our universe.

When I Wish Upon a…

No one really wishes upon a dying star, but it is a fact that stars die. However, before they reach the state of supernova, they experience a mini-explosion and send out enormous chunks of mass into space. While astrophysicists were aware of this phenomenon before, it is Ofek’s team who discovered that the mini-explosion takes place only weeks in advance of the star’s death, which can give us advance notice.

Star burnouts are the most powerful explosions known to the universe. It is thought that they take place either because the star suddenly runs out of energy or because they have taken in too much mass from another star. They are extremely bright and can radiate as much energy as the sun emits during its entire life. While astrophysicists have been able to observe this activity in the cosmos, this is the first time researchers have been able to pinpoint the 40-day time period preceding the supernova stage.

Exploding Stars as a Source of Renewable Energy

Since stars can live for 100 million years, experiencing such a burnout can indeed be a rare occasion. The mini-explosion that takes place in advance not only warns us of what’s to come, but it can release mass amounts of energy from radiation that has built up in side of the star. It was noted that 40 days before the final explosion felt by the former USSR, the star leaked energy amounting to about 1% of the sun. The energy, which traveled at a speed of 7.2 million kilometers per hour, equaled the amount of matter found in 3,300 earths. Research into this realm is fairly new, but besides the early warning system, there is great interest in its ability to provide a renewable energy source.