Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A Starburst Captured: Students Photograph Exploding Star in Pinwheel Galaxy

11.10.2011
In the Pinwheel Galaxy some 21 light years from Earth, a supernova beams brightly, out-shining its cosmic neighbors and causing a stir among starwatchers.

Students in University of Delaware Prof. Judi Provencal’s Observational Astronomy class (PHYS 469) photographed the exploding star last week using the telescope at Mt. Cuba Astronomical Observatory in Greenville, Del., which has a lens spanning 24 inches in diameter.

“The supernova, a star that is blowing itself to bits, is the brightest object in the lower center of the image,” Provencal notes. “It is the brightest supernova in the last 20 years and might be visible with binoculars.”

The bursting star, known as PTF 11kly, will eventually fade over the next year or so and then turn into a neutron star or a black hole. The material ejected when it exploded may form new stars.

According to Provencal, PTF 11kly is a “Type 1a” supernova, which means it’s half of a “stellar team” known as a binary star. One of the stars is an “ordinary” star, and the other is a white dwarf, a super-dense star that is the size of the Earth, but has the mass of the sun. Because it doesn’t have nuclear reactions firing away in its core, the white dwarf does not generate any internal energy. Instead, it’s supported against gravity by “electron degeneracy pressure” which occurs when a huge number of electrons are compacted tightly together in a small volume.

The two stars of the binary team orbit very closely together, so close that the “ordinary” star transfers material to the white dwarf. When the white dwarf gains enough material that it reaches a critical mass (about 1.4 times the mass of the sun), electron degeneracy pressure fails and the star will collapse in on itself. This produces a lot of energy, which we see as the supernova, Provencal explains.

“These are the types of supernova that were used to determine that the universe is actually accelerating in its expansion, which has led to the whole field of dark energy,” Provencal says.

In the Pinwheel Galaxy some 21 light years from Earth, a supernova beams brightly, out-shining its cosmic neighbors and causing a stir among starwatchers.

Students in University of Delaware Prof. Judi Provencal’s Observational Astronomy class (PHYS 469) photographed the exploding star last week using the telescope at Mt. Cuba Astronomical Observatory in Greenville, Del., which has a lens spanning 24 inches in diameter.The Pinwheel Galaxy inhabited by the PTF 11kly supernova was discovered in 1781 by French astronomer Pierre Mechain, who thought it was a nebula, a gas cloud from which new stars are born. Erwin Hubble later would show that it is indeed a full-fledged galaxy.

Mechain’s fellow astronomer Charles Messier would include it as an item, today still referred to as “Messier 101,” or M101, in his 1781 astronomical catalog.

“Messier’s list was supposed to help with comet hunting since it was a list of fuzzy objects that didn’t move in the sky. Comet hunting was a big deal back then,” notes Provencal.

The Pinwheel Galaxy is a spiral galaxy much like our own Milky Way. It’s called a spiral galaxy for the spiral arms or “spokes” that curve away from a center disk of highly concentrated stars. The stars in these spokes are younger and thus hotter and brighter than the stars at the center.

Although the Pinwheel Galaxy is playing host to the brightest, nearest supernova seen from Earth in years, starwatchers should know that our own Milky Way also sports supernovae from time to time—the most recent one was recorded in 1572, Provencal says.

Tracey Bryant | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.udel.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Taking a spin on plasma space tornadoes with NASA observations
20.11.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth
17.11.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Antarctic landscape insights keep ice loss forecasts on the radar

20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

Filling the gap: High-latitude volcanic eruptions also have global impact

20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

Water world

20.11.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>