A study of supernova remnants – material blown out into space during death throes of giant stars – has shown that a bubble of gas enveloping our Solar System is being shoved backwards by the debris of another, more recent, supernova.
Over the last few million years, several stars have exploded within the Milky Way and they have left behind bubbles of expanding, hot gas that radiate low-energy X-rays. The Solar System sits within one of these shells, known as the “Local Hot Bubble”. A study using data from the XMM-Newton Space Telescope has shown that the “Loop 1 Superbubble”, the remnants of some more recent supernova explosions, is expanding faster than the Local Hot Bubble and is compressing an area of cool dense gas, known as the Wall, that lies between the two shells. Although astronomers have known for some time that the Local Hot Bubble has an hourglass shape, pressure and density measurements from this new study provide evidence that Loop 1’s compression of the Wall is causing the hourglass’s “waist”.
“The X-ray radiation from the bubbles is very faint. In order to see them, we’ve had to remove all the light from stars, nebulae and cosmic rays the images, leaving only the weak X-ray signal. It’s the astronomical equivalent of looking at an aquarium, ignoring the fish and looking only at the water,” said Michelle Supper, who is presenting the results at the RAS National Astronomy Meeting in Leicester on 5th April.
Anita Heward | alfa
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