Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Hubble Uncovers an Unusual Stellar Progenitor to a Supernova

24.03.2009
Like a surveillance camera photographing the scene of a crime before it happened, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has a priceless archival photo of the galaxy that contains a picture of the supernova 2005gl progenitor star as it appeared eight years before the star exploded.

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has identified a star that was one million times brighter than the sun before it exploded as a supernova in 2005. According to current theories of stellar evolution, the star should not have self-destructed so early in its life.

"This might mean that we are fundamentally wrong about the evolution of massive stars, and that theories need revising," says Avishay Gal-Yam of the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.

The doomed star, which is estimated to have had about 100 times our sun's mass, was not mature enough, according to theory, to have evolved a massive iron core of nuclear fusion ash. This is the prerequisite for a core implosion that triggers a supernova blast.

The finding appears today in the online version of Nature Magazine.

The explosion, called supernova SN 2005gl, was seen in the barred-spiral galaxy NGC 266 on October 5, 2005. Pre-explosion pictures from the Hubble archive, taken in 1997, reveal the progenitor as a very luminous point source with an absolute visual magnitude of -10.3.

The progenitor was so bright that it probably belonged to a class of stars called Luminous Blue Variables (LBVs), "because no other type of star is as intrinsically brilliant," says Gal-Yam. As an LBV-class star evolves it sheds much of its mass through a violent stellar wind. Only at that point does it develop a large iron core and ultimately explodes as a core-collapse supernova.

Extremely massive and luminous stars topping 100 solar masses, such as Eta Carinae in our own Milky Way Galaxy, are expected to lose their entire hydrogen envelopes prior to their ultimate explosions as supernovae. "These observations demonstrate that many details in the evolution and fate of LBVs remain a mystery. We should continue to keep an eye on Eta Carinae – it may surprise us yet again," says supernova expert Mario Livio of the Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.

"The progenitor identification shows that, at least in some cases, massive stars explode before losing most of their hydrogen envelope, suggesting that the evolution of the core and the evolution of the envelope are less coupled than previously thought, a finding which may require a revision of stellar evolution theory," says co-author Douglas Leonard from San Diego State University, Calif.

One possibility is that the progenitor to SN 2005gl was really a pair of stars, a binary system that merged. This would have stoked nuclear reactions to brighten the star enormously, making it look more luminous and less evolved than it really is. "This also leaves open the question that there may be other mechanisms for triggering supernova explosions," says Gal-Yam. "We may be missing something very basic in understanding how a superluminous star goes through mass loss."

Gal-Yam reports that the observation revealed that only a small part of the star's mass was flung off in the explosion. Most of the material, says Gal-Yam, was drawn into the collapsing core that has probably become a black hole estimated to be at least 10 to 15 solar masses.

Gal-Yam and Leonard located the progenitor in archival images of NGC 266 taken in 1997. It was easily identifiable only because it is so superluminous. Only Hubble could clearly resolve it at such a great distance.

The team then used the Keck telescope to precisely locate the supernova on the outer arm of the galaxy. A follow-up observation with Hubble in 2007 unequivocally showed that the superluminous star was gone. To make sure the new observation was consistent with the 1997 archival image, the astronomers used the same Hubble camera used in 1997, the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2.

Finding archival images of stars before the stars exploded as supernovae isn't an easy task. Several other supernova progenitor candidates have been reported prior to the Hubble observation. The only other absolutely indisputable progenitor, however, was the blue supergiant progenitor to SN 1987A. In the case of SN 1987A, it was thought that the progenitor star was once a red supergiant and at a later stage evolved back to blue supergiant status. This led to a major reworking of supernova theory. The progenitor star observed by Gal-Yam is too massive to have gone through such an oscillation to the red giant stage, so yet another new explanation is required, he says.

For images and more information about the progenitor to SN 2005gl, visit:

http://hubblesite.org/news/2009/13

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

STScI is an International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA 2009) program partner.

Ray Villard | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.stsci.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht DGIST develops 20 times faster biosensor
24.04.2017 | DGIST (Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology)

nachricht New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers
21.04.2017 | California Institute of Technology

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: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

DGIST develops 20 times faster biosensor

24.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Nanoimprinted hyperlens array: Paving the way for practical super-resolution imaging

24.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Atomic-level motion may drive bacteria's ability to evade immune system defenses

24.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>