Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Action Replay of Powerful Stellar Explosion

25.03.2008
Astronomers have made the best ever determination of the power of a supernova explosion that was visible from Earth long ago. By observing the remnant of a supernova and a light echo from the initial outburst, they have established the validity of a powerful new method for studying supernovas.

Using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, ESA's XMM-Newton Observatory, and the Gemini Observatory, two teams of researchers studied the supernova remnant and the supernova light echo that are located in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a small galaxy about 160,000 light years from Earth. They concluded that the supernova occurred about 400 years ago (in Earth’s time frame), and was unusually bright and energetic.

X-ray Image of SNR 0509-67.5This result is the first time two methods - X-ray observations of a supernova remnant and optical observations of the expanding light echoes from the explosion - have both been used to estimate the energy of a supernova explosion. Up until now, scientists had only made such an estimate using the light seen soon after a star exploded, or using remnants that are several hundred years old, but not from both.

"People didn't have advanced telescopes to study supernovas when they went off hundreds of years ago," said Armin Rest of Harvard University, who led the light echo observations using Gemini. "But we've done the next best thing by looking around the site of the explosion and constructing an action replay of it."

In 2004, scientists used Chandra to determine that a supernova remnant, known as SNR 0509-67.5 in the LMC, was a so-called Type Ia supernova, caused by a white dwarf star in a binary system that reaches a critical mass and explodes.

In the new optical study, an estimate of the explosion's energy came from studying an echo of the original light of the explosion. Just as sound bounces off walls of a canyon, so too can light waves create an echo by bouncing off dust clouds in space. The light from these echoes travels a longer path than the light that travels straight toward us, and so can be seen hundreds of years after the supernova itself.

Illustrations of Light Echoes and a Supernova RemnantFirst seen by the Cerro-Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, the light echoes were observed in greater detail by Gemini Observatory in Chile. The optical spectra of the light echo were used to confirm that the supernova was a Type Ia and to unambiguously determine the particular class of explosion and therefore its energy.

The Chandra data, along with XMM data obtained in 2000, were then independently used to calculate the amount of energy involved in the original explosion, using an analysis of the supernova remnant and state-of-the-art explosion models. Their conclusion confirmed the results from the optical data, namely that the explosion was an especially energetic and bright variety of Type Ia supernova. This agreement provides strong evidence that the detailed explosion models are accurate.

"Having these two methods agree lets us breathe a sigh of relief," said Carlos Badenes of Princeton University who led the Chandra and XMM study. "It looks like we're on the right track with trying to understand these big explosions. Their stellar debris really can retain a memory of what created them hundreds of years earlier."

Optical Panoramic Image of LMCBoth methods estimated a similar time since the explosion of about 400 years. An extra constraint on the age comes from the lack of recorded historical evidence for a recent supernova in the LMC. Because this star appears in the Southern Hemisphere, it likely would have been seen by navigators who noted similarly bright celestial events if it had occurred less than about 400 years ago.

Because Type Ia supernovas have nearly uniform intrinsic brightness, they are used as important tools by scientists to study the expansion of the universe and the nature of dark energy.

"It's crucial to know that the basic assumptions about these explosions are correct, so they're not used just as black-boxes to measure distances," said Badenes.

This work is also being extended to other supernova remnants and light echoes.

"This is the first case where the conclusions that are drawn from the supernova remnant about the original explosion can be directly tested by looking at the original event itself," said Rest. "We'll be able to learn a lot about supernovas in our own galaxy by using this technique."

These results appear in two recently accepted papers in The Astrophysical Journal. The first discusses the spectrum obtained by Gemini, led by Rest. The second, with Badenes as first author, details the Chandra and XMM observations of SNR 0509-67.5. 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.

Media contacts:
Jennifer Morcone
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
256-544-7199
jennifer.j.morcone@nasa.gov
Megan Watzke
Chandra X-ray Center, Cambridge, Mass.
617-496-7998
cxcpress@cfa.harvard.edu

Megan Watzke | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.cfa.harvard.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Ultra-compact phase modulators based on graphene plasmons
27.06.2017 | ICFO-The Institute of Photonic Sciences

nachricht Smooth propagation of spin waves using gold
26.06.2017 | Toyohashi University 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: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Touch Displays WAY-AX and WAY-DX by WayCon

27.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Drones that drive

27.06.2017 | Information Technology

Ultra-compact phase modulators based on graphene plasmons

27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>