On September 9, 2018, a robotic telescope on its routine patrol of the night sky detected what looked like a new star. Over the next few hours, the “star” grew 10 times brighter, triggering a flag by software I had written to identify unusual celestial events. It was nighttime in California, and I was asleep, but my colleagues on the other side of the world reacted quickly to the alert. Twelve hours later we had obtained enough additional data from telescopes on Earth and in space to confirm that this was the explosion of a star—a supernova—in a distant galaxy. But this was no ordinary supernova.

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