Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Possible Progenitor of Special Supernova Type Detected

15.02.2008
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:
http://www.cfa.harvard.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Further Improvement of Qubit Lifetime for Quantum Computers
09.12.2016 | Forschungszentrum Jülich

nachricht Electron highway inside crystal
09.12.2016 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

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: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

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

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>