Though several models predict this behavior and evidence from supernovae points in this direction, actually observations of such pre-explosion outbursts have been rare. In new research led by Dr. Eran Ofek of the Weizmann Institute, scientists found such an outburst taking place a short time – just one month – before a massive star underwent a supernova explosion.
The findings, which recently appeared in Nature, help to clarify the series of events leading up to the supernova, as well as providing insight into the processes taking place in the cores of such massive stars as they progress toward the final stage of their lives.
Ofek, a member of the Institute's Particle Physics and Astrophysics Department, is a participant in the Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) project (led by Prof. Shri Kulkarni of the California Institute of Technology), which searches the skies for supernova events using telescopes at the Palomar Observatory in California. He and a research team from Israel, the UK and the US decided to investigate whether outbursts could be connected to later supernovae by combing for evidence of them in observations that predated PTF supernova sightings, using tools developed by Dr. Mark Sullivan of the University of Southampton.
The fact that they found such an outburst occurring just a little over a month before the onset of the supernova explosion was something of a surprise, but the timing and mass of the ejected material helped them to validate a particular model that predicts this type of pre-explosion event. A statistical analysis showed that there was only a 0.1% chance that the outburst and supernova were unrelated occurrences.
The exploding star, known as a type IIn supernova, began as a massive star, at least 8 times the mass of our sun. As such a star ages, the internal nuclear fusion that keeps it going produces heavier and heavier elements – until its core is mostly iron. At that point, the weighty core quickly collapses inward and the star explodes.
The violence and mass of the pre-explosion outburst they found, says Ofek, point to its source in the star's core. The material is speedily ejected from the core straight through the star's surface by the excitation of gravity waves. The researchers believe that continued research in this direction will show such mini-explosions to be the rule for this type of supernova.
Also participating in this research were Prof. Avishay Gal-Yam, Dr. Ofer Yaron and Iair Arcavi of the Institute's Particle Physics and Astrophysics Department, and Prof. Nir Shaviv of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Prof. Avishay Gal-Yam's research is supported by the Helen and Martin Kimmel Award for Innovative Investigation; the Nella and Leon Benoziyo Center for Astrophysics; and the Lord Sieff of Brimpton Memorial Fund.
Dr. Eran Ofek's research is supported by the Willner Family Leadership Institute. Dr. Ofek is the incumbent of the Arye and Ido Dissentshik Career Development Chair.
The Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, is one of the world's top-ranking multidisciplinary research institutions. Noted for its wide-ranging exploration of the natural and exact sciences, the Institute is home to 2,700 scientists, students, technicians and supporting staff. Institute research efforts include the search for new ways of fighting disease and hunger, examining leading questions in mathematics and computer science, probing the physics of matter and the universe, creating novel materials and developing new strategies for protecting the environment.
Weizmann Institute news releases are posted on the World Wide Web at http://wis-wander.weizmann.ac.il, and are also available at http://www.eurekalert.org.
Yivsam Azgad | EurekAlert!
Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form
18.08.2017 | Cornell University
Astrophysicists explain the mysterious behavior of cosmic rays
18.08.2017 | Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
18.08.2017 | Life Sciences
18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences