Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Possible Progenitor of Special Supernova Type Detected

Using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, scientists have reported the possible detection of a binary star system that was later destroyed in a supernova explosion. The new method they used provides great future promise for finding the detailed origin of these important cosmic events.

In an article appearing in the February 14th issue of the journal Nature, Rasmus Voss of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany and Gijs Nelemans of Radboud University in the Netherlands searched Chandra images for evidence of a much sought after, but as yet unobserved binary system - one that was about to go supernova. Near the position of a recently detected supernova, they discovered an object in Chandra images taken more than four years before the explosion.

Optical image of SN 2007on The supernova, known as SN 2007on, was identified as a Type Ia supernova. Astronomers generally agree that Type Ia supernovas are produced by the explosion of a white dwarf star in a binary star system. However, the exact configuration and trigger for the explosion is unclear. Is the explosion caused by a collision between two white dwarfs, or because a white dwarf became unstable by pulling too much material off a companion star?

Answering such questions is a high priority because Type Ia supernovas are major sources of iron in the Universe. Also, because of their nearly uniform intrinsic brightness, Type Ia supernova are used as important tools by scientists to study the nature of dark energy and other cosmological issues.

Chandra Image of NGC 1404 "Right now these supernovas are used as black boxes to measure distances and derive the rate of expansion of the universe," said Nelemans. "What we're trying to do is look inside the box."

If the supernova explosion is caused by material being pulled off a companion star onto the white dwarf, fusion of this material on the surface of the star should heat the star and produce a strong source of X-radiation prior to the explosion. Once the supernova explosion occurs, the white dwarf is expected to be completely destroyed and then would be undetectable in X-rays. In the merger scenario, the intensity of X-ray emission prior to the explosion is expected to be much weaker.

Chandra Image of the Fornax ClusterBased on the detection of a fairly strong X-ray source at approximately the position of SN 2007on 4 years before the explosion, Voss and Nelemans conclude that the data support the scenario where matter is pulled off a companion star. The small number of X-ray sources in the field implies that there is only a small chance of an unrelated source being so close by coincidence. Also, the X-ray source has similar properties to those expected for fusion on a white dwarf, unlike most X-ray sources in the sky.

However, in follow-up studies, Voss, Nelemans and colleagues Gijs Roelofs (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Mass.) and Cees Bassa (McGill University, Canada) used higher-quality optical images to better determine the supernova's position. This work, which is not yet published, shows a small, but significant difference in the measured positions of the supernova and the X-ray source, suggesting the source may not be the progenitor.

HST optical image of NGC 1404 Follow-up Chandra observations hint that the X-ray object has disappeared, but further observations are needed to finally decide whether the source was the progenitor or not.

The team is also applying this new method to other supernovas and has high hopes that they will eventually succeed in identifying the elusive cause of at least some of these explosions.

"We're very excited about opening up a new way of studying supernovas, even though we're not sure that we've seen this particular stellar bomb before it exploded," said Gijs Roelofs. "We're very confident that we'll learn a lot more about these important supernovas in the future."

Voss agrees that, even if the X-ray source is not found to be the progenitor of SN 2007on, the hunt is worth the effort.

"Finding the progenitor to one of these Type Ia supernovas is a great chase in astronomy right now," he said. "These supernovas are great tools for studying dark energy, but if we knew more about how they form they might become even better tools."

Rasmus Voss receives support from the Excellence Cluster Universe in Garching, Germany. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for the agency's Science Mission Directorate. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls science and flight operations from the Chandra X-ray Center in Cambridge, Mass

Megan Watzke | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA
27.10.2016 | University of Oklahoma

nachricht First results of NSTX-U research operations
26.10.2016 | DOE/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

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: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>