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!
Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1
21.03.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Hochfrequenzphysik und Radartechnik FHR
Taming chaos: Calculating probability in complex systems
21.03.2018 | American Institute of Physics
In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.
Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...
Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.
They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...
A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...
For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.
In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...
Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...
19.03.2018 | Event News
16.03.2018 | Event News
13.03.2018 | Event News
21.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
21.03.2018 | Materials Sciences
21.03.2018 | Life Sciences