Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The Hooked Galaxy

29.06.2006
ESO's VLT Image of Supernova in Interacting Galaxy

Life is not easy, even for galaxies. Some indeed get so close to their neighbours that they get rather distorted. But such encounters between galaxies have another effect: they spawn new generations of stars, some of which explode. ESO's VLT has obtained a unique vista of a pair of entangled galaxies, in which a star exploded.


The Hooked Galaxy and its Companion

Because of the importance of exploding stars, and particularly of supernovae of Type Ia [1], for cosmological studies (e.g. relating to claims of an accelerated cosmic expansion and the existence of a new, unknown, constituent of the universe - the so called 'Dark Energy'), they are a preferred target of study for astronomers. Thus, on several occasions, they pointed ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) towards a region of the sky that portrays a trio of amazing galaxies.

MCG-01-39-003 (bottom right) is a peculiar spiral galaxy, with a telephone number name, that presents a hook at one side, most probably due to the interaction with its neighbour, the spiral galaxy NGC 5917 (upper right). In fact, further enhancement of the image reveals that matter is pulled off MCG-01-39-003 by NGC 5917. Both these galaxies are located at similar distances, about 87 million light-years away, towards the constellation of Libra (The Balance).

NGC 5917 (also known as Arp 254 and MCG-01-39-002) is about 750 times fainter than can be seen by the unaided eye and is about 40,000 light-years across. It was discovered in 1835 by William Herschel, who strangely enough, seems to have missed its hooked companion, only 2.5 times fainter.

As seen at the bottom left of this exceptional VLT image, a still fainter and nameless, but intricately beautiful, barred spiral galaxy looks from a distance the entangled pair, while many 'island universes' perform a cosmic dance in the background.

But this is not the reason why astronomers look at this region. Last year, a star exploded in the vicinity of the hook. The supernova, noted SN 2005cf as it was the 84th found that year, was discovered by astronomers Pugh and Li with the robotic KAIT telescope on 28 May. It appeared to be projected on top of a bridge of matter connecting MCG-01-39-003 with NGC5917. Further analysis with the Whipple Observatory 1.5m Telescope showed this supernova to be of the Ia type and that the material was ejected with velocities up to 15 000 km/s (that is, 54 million kilometres per hour!).

Immediately after the discovery, the European Supernova Collaboration (ESC [2]), led by Wolfgang Hillebrandt (MPA-Garching, Germany) started an extensive observing campaign on this object, using a large number of telescopes around the world.

There have been several indications about the fact that galaxy encounters and/or galaxy activity phenomena may produce enhanced star formation. As a consequence, the number of supernovae in this kind of system is expected to be larger with respect to isolated galaxies. Normally, this scenario should favour mainly the explosion of young, massive stars. Nevertheless, recent studies have shown that such phenomena could increase the number of stars that eventually explode as Type Ia supernovae. This notwithstanding, the discovery of supernovae in tidal tails connecting interacting galaxies remains quite an exceptional event. For this reason, the discovery of SN2005cf close to the 'tidal bridge' between MCG-01-39-002 and MCG-01-39-003 constitutes a very interesting case.

The supernova was followed by the ESC team during its whole evolution, from about ten days before the object reached its peak luminosity until more than a year after the explosion. As the SN becomes fainter and fainter, larger and larger telescopes are needed. One year after the explosion, the object is indeed about 700 times fainter than at maximum.

The supernova was observed with the VLT equipped with FORS1 by ESO astronomer Ferdinando Patat, who is also member of the team led by Massimo Turatto (INAF-Padua, Italy), and at a latter stage by the Paranal Science Team, with the aim of studying the very late phases of the supernova. These late stages are very important to probe the inner parts of the ejected material, in order to better understand the explosion mechanism and the elements produced during the explosion.

The deep FORS1 images reveal a beautiful tidal structure in the form of a hook, with a wealth of details that probably include regions of star formation triggered by the close encounter between the two galaxies.

"Curiously, the supernova appears to be outside of the tidal tail", says Ferdinando Patat. "The progenitor system was probably stripped out of one of the two galaxies and exploded far away from the place where it was born."

Life may not be easy for galaxies, but it isn't much simpler for stars either.

[1]: Type Ia supernovae are a sub-class of supernovae that were historically classified as not showing the signature of hydrogen in their spectra. They are currently interpreted as the disruption of small, compact stars, called white dwarfs, that acquire matter from a companion star.

[2]: The European Supernova Collaboration includes 10 institutions across Europe (Stockholm, MPA, Barcelona, CNRS, ESO, ICSTM, ING, IoA, Padua, Oxford) and most of the observational and theoretical expertise on supernovae in Europe.

Henri Boffin | alfa
Further information:
http://www.eso.org/outreach/press-rel/pr-2006/pr-22-06.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Midwife and signpost for photons
11.12.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht New research identifies how 3-D printed metals can be both strong and ductile
11.12.2017 | University of Birmingham

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: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

Im Focus: Virtual Reality for Bacteria

An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications

Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...

Im Focus: A space-time sensor for light-matter interactions

Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.

The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Midwife and signpost for photons

11.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

How do megacities impact coastal seas? Searching for evidence in Chinese marginal seas

11.12.2017 | Earth Sciences

PhoxTroT: Optical Interconnect Technologies Revolutionized Data Centers and HPC Systems

11.12.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>