In January, scientists said they discovered an exploding star ending in a super-luminous supernova that was almost inconceivably bright — more so than the output of the entire Milky Way. Now, new research shows the distant flare may have actually been the result of a rare cosmic collision.
Even when news about the exploding star was announced, it didn’t quite seem like your run-of-the-mill supernova explosion of a star at the end of its life.
The explosion’s mechanism and power source remain shrouded in mystery because all known theories meet serious challenges in explaining the immense amount of energy ASASSN-15lh has radiated,” astronomer Subo Dong said in a statement at the time.
A study based on new data and observations of ASASSN-15lh attempts to solve the mystery by re-classifying it as what’s called a Tidal Disruption Event (TDE). That’s the scientific way of saying that the powerful gravitational forces of a rotating black hole jarred and pulled at a star that passed too close, stretching it like spaghetti until it was ripped to pieces in a series of fantastic explosions.