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Astronomers study blast on distant star

MANCHESTER, England, July 20 (UPI) -- British and German astronomers say a nuclear explosion on a star 5,000 light-years from Earth produced a blast wave moving at 1,000 miles a second.

Japanese astronomers Feb. 12 reported a star called RS Ophiuchi suddenly brightened and became clearly visible in the night sky. Although it was just the latest in a series of such events seen during the past century, astronomers said it was the first since 1985 and, therefore, an opportunity to use modern-day telescopes to understand the causes and consequences of such incidents.

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Tim O'Brien of the University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Observatory requested urgent observations with the Very Long Baseline Array of radio telescopes extending from Hawaii to the Caribbean.

"Our first observations ... showed an expanding blast wave already comparable in size to Saturn's orbit around the sun," said O'Brien. "However, we needed to use the world's most powerful radio telescopes because, from a distance of 5,000 light-years, its apparent size ... was only 5 millionths of a degree -- the size of a football seen from 2,700 kilometers (1,620 miles) away."

The discovery and resulting theories are detailed in the journal Nature.

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