From Shannon Hall at Nature:
The fact that scientists don’t fully understand these cosmological tools is embarrassing, says the latest study’s lead author, Griffin Hosseinzadeh, an astronomer at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “One of the greatest discoveries of the century is based on these things and we don’t even know what they are, really.”
It’s not for lack of trying: astronomers have put forth a range of hypotheses to explain how these stellar explosions arise. Scientists once thought that the supernovae were built uniformly, like fireworks in a cosmic assembly line. That changed in the 1990s, when astronomers noticed that some of the supernovae were dimmer than the others. More.
Relax. We weren’t asking you guys to be prophets anyway. Sneak a break and join us later.
See also: Is our current theory of Earth’s formation mistaken?