A Star Keeps Exploding, and Astronomers Don’t Know Why

Astronomers are trying to understand the odd behavior of a star that has seemingly gone supernova multiple times.

As reports, atronomers at the Palomar Transient Factory first detected the star, iPTF14hls, go supernova in September 2014. It was then classified as an exploding star the following January.

Unexpectedly, however, the star then began to get brighter, and continued to dim and brighten at least five times over the following three years.

Stars usually go supernova once and that’s it – they’ll glow brightly for several months, then fade. This one, however, apparently doesn’t want to die.

In fact, 2014 may have been its second supernova. Astronomers, curious about the strange behavior of iPTF14hls, went back through their records and discovered that a similar explosion occurred in the very same spot way back in 1954. This, they say, is very peculiar.

“This supernova breaks everything we thought we knew about how they work,” the study’s lead author Iair Arcavi has said. “It’s the biggest puzzle I’ve encountered in almost a decade of studying stellar explosions.”

According to, one hypothesis is that the star is actually what’s known as a pulsational pair instability supernova. The star could have potentially been so massive that it “generated antimatter in its core,” leading to it becoming extraordinarily unstable with “repeated bright eruptions over periods of years.”


Rob Schwarz

Writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. Editor-in-chief of Stranger Dimensions.

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