October 23, 2021

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Some of the universe’s stars have gone missing. But where did they go?

10 min read

Stars don’t just vanish — or do they? For thousands of years, astronomers accepted the idea that the lights in the sky were fixed and unchanging. Even when it became clear that these lights were actually physical objects like the sun, one of the key assumptions for astrophysicists has been that they go through major changes very slowly, on timescales of millions or billions of years. 

And when the most massive stars of all — which are many times heavier than the sun — do go through sudden and cataclysmic changes as they reach the ends of their lives, their passing is marked by the unmissable cosmic beacon of a supernova explosion, which shines for many months, and may even be visible across hundreds of millions of light-years.

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