The study, published in Astrophysical Journal Letters, predicts that the combined mass of the two stars in the system may be high enough for the stars to eventually spiral into each other, triggering a much bigger supernova explosion.
Dr Roger Wesson, UCL Physics and Astronomy, says: “At the ends of their lives, some stars undergo nova explosions, caused by nuclear reactions on their surface. In August 2007, one such exploding star was discovered in a part of the sky that had serendipitously been observed by us only a few weeks previously. The pre-explosion images showed that this particular star was surrounded by a planetary nebula.
“Although several novae are discovered each year in our Galaxy, this is only the second time that a nova has been seen inside a planetary nebula, the first being over 100 years ago. Now, the light flash from the explosion is passing through and illuminating the surrounding nebula. This object poses a major challenge to current theories of how stars evolve and could be a Rosetta Stone in understanding some aspects of the lives of stars.”
“The pre-explosion images were taken as part of the Isaac Newton Telescope Photometric HAlpha Survey (IPHAS), the first digital survey of the Milky Way in visible light, and the most comprehensive yet in the light emitted by hydrogen (the most abundant element in the universe).
“The star which erupted was a nova, an event caused when matter is transferred from one star in a close binary system onto its companion, eventually triggering a runaway thermonuclear explosion. The nebula surrounding this nova is a planetary nebula, which must have formed during an earlier phase in the binary star's existence, when the outer layers of one of the companions were expelled. Only one previous nova has been seen to occur inside a planetary nebula – Nova Persei in 1901. The opportunity to watch in detail as the nova flash interacts with the nebula is a first in astronomy.
“The new nova, known as V458 Vulpeculae, provides an important test for models of how stars evolve. Our analysis also suggests that the combined mass of the two stars which produced the explosion could be high enough that eventually, the two stars will spiral into each other, producing a much larger supernova explosion. The role of novae as potential future supernovae has thus far been difficult to analyse in detail, and so V458 Vul provides an opportunity to learn more about this aspect of stellar evolution.”
Jenny Gimpel | alfa
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Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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