Scientists have discovered a star in the Andromeda Galaxy that explodes every year — the first of its kind in the known universe.
“When we first discovered that M31N 2008-12a erupted every year, we were very surprised,” San Diego State University astrophysicist Allen Shafter said in a press release.
Shafter and colleagues describe the peculiar star in a new paper published in the journal Nature.
M31N 2008-12a’s explosive routine, they believe, is due to its codependent relationship with a nearby star. It constantly sucks away its companion’s hydrogen, which explodes violently about once per year.
The constant explosions have created an extraordinary “super-remnant” of stellar debris that’s 400 light-years across.
The researchers suspect that the star is gearing up for an eventual supernova that will destroy it completely — and give scientists new insight into the type of activity that leads to a supernova.
“They are, in effect, the measuring rods that allow us to map the visible universe,” Shafter said. “Despite their importance, we don’t fully understand where they come from.”
READ MORE: This Star in Andromeda Has Exploded Every Year for Millions of Years [Astronomy]