Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Hubble Solves Mystery on Source of Supernova in Nearby Galaxy

12.01.2012
Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have solved a longstanding mystery on the type of star, or so-called progenitor, which caused a supernova seen in a nearby galaxy. The finding yields new observational data for pinpointing one of several scenarios that trigger such outbursts.

Based on previous observations from ground-based telescopes, astronomers knew the supernova class, called a Type Ia, created a remnant named SNR 0509-67.5, which lies 170,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy.


This image of Type Ia Supernova Remnant 0509-67.5 was made by combining data from two of NASA’s Great Observatories. The result shows soft green and blue hues of heated material from the X-ray data surrounded by the glowing pink optical shell, which shows the ambient gas being shocked by the expanding blast wave from the supernova. Credit: NASA, ESA, and B. Schaefer and A. Pagnotta (Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge); Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CXC, SAO, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), J. Hughes (Rutgers University)

Theoretically, this kind of supernova explosion is caused by a star spilling material onto a white dwarf companion, the compact remnant of a normal star, until it sets off one of the most powerful explosions in the universe.

Astronomers failed to find any remnant of the companion star, however, and concluded that the common scenario did not apply in this case, although it is still a viable theory for other Type Ia supernovae.

"We know Hubble has the sensitivity necessary to detect the faintest white dwarf remnants that could have caused such explosions," said lead investigator Bradley Schaefer of Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge. "The logic here is the same as the famous quote from Sherlock Holmes: 'when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.'"

The cause of SNR 0509-67.5 can be explained best by two tightly orbiting white dwarf stars spiraling closer and closer until they collided and exploded.

For four decades, the search for Type Ia supernovae progenitors has been a key question in astrophysics. The problem has taken on special importance during the last decade with Type Ia supernovae being the premier tools for measuring the accelerating universe.

Type Ia supernovae release tremendous energy, in which the light produced is often brighter than an entire galaxy of stars. The problem has been to identify the type of star system that pushes the white dwarf's mass over the edge and triggers this type of explosion. Many possibilities have been suggested, but most require that a companion star near the exploding white dwarf be left behind after the explosion.

Therefore, a possible way to distinguish between the various progenitor models has been to look deep in the center of an old supernova remnant to search for the ex-companion star.

In 2010, Schaefer and Ashley Pagnotta of LSU were preparing a proposal to look for any faint ex-companion stars in the center of four supernova remnants in the Large Magellanic Cloud when they discovered the Hubble Space Telescope already had taken the desired image of one of their target remnants, SNR 0509-67.5, for the Hubble Heritage program, which collects images of especially photogenic astronomical targets.

In analyzing the central region, they found it to be completely empty of stars down to the limit of the faintest objects Hubble can detect in the photos. Schaefer suggests the best explanation left is the so-called "double degenerate model" in which two white dwarfs collide.

The results are being reported today at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Austin, Texas. A paper on the results will be published in the Jan. 12 issue of the journal Nature.

There are no recorded observations of the star exploding. However, researchers at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md. have identified light from the supernova that was reflected off of interstellar dust, delaying its arrival at Earth by 400 years. This delay, called a light echo of the supernova explosion also allowed the astronomers to measure the spectral signature of the light from the explosion. By virtue of the color signature, astronomers were able to deduce it was a Type Ia supernova.

Because the remnant appears as a nice symmetric shell or bubble, the geometric center can be determined accurately. These properties make SNR 0509-67.5 an ideal target to search for ex-companions. The young age also means that any surviving stars have not moved far from the site of the explosion.

The team plans to look at other supernova remnants in the Large Magellenic Cloud to further test their observations.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington, D.C.

Ray Villard
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.
410-338-4514
villard@stsci.edu
Donna Weaver
Space Science Telescope Institute, Baltimore, Md.
410-338-4493
dweaver@stsci.edu

Cheryl Gundy | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.stsci.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging
17.10.2017 | American Association for the Advancement of Science

nachricht Filling the early universe with knots can explain why the world is three-dimensional
17.10.2017 | Vanderbilt University

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: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

Im Focus: New nanomaterial can extract hydrogen fuel from seawater

Hybrid material converts more sunlight and can weather seawater's harsh conditions

It's possible to produce hydrogen to power fuel cells by extracting the gas from seawater, but the electricity required to do it makes the process costly. UCF...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Study suggests oysters offer hot spot for reducing nutrient pollution

17.10.2017 | Life Sciences

Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

17.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

World first for reading digitally encoded synthetic molecules

17.10.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>