You’ve heard of zombie humans and you’ve probably heard of zombie ants… but what about zombie stars? “Zombie stars” are stars that explode like bombs, die and then come back to life by sucking matter out of another star. These stars, known as Type Ia Supernovae, are more than just cool eating machines though. Andy Howell, adjunct professor of physics at UCSB and staff scientist at Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network (LCOGT) recently wrote an article for Nature explaining how zombie stars can be used for determining astronomical distances, which is helping astronomers and physicists in the search for dark energy.
Zombie stars aren’t exactly a new phenomenon. It’s known that stars run out of fuel and disintegrate until only the core of the star remains (known as a white dwarf). When a Type Ia Supernovae eats another star, it’s a white dwarf consuming matter from another star. Astronomers have also detected white dwarfs with an appetite for asteroids! Stars eating stars, stars eating asteroids, black holes eating stars…the universe seems, well, hungry.