Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Death Of A Star Scientists Watch Supernova In Real-Time

31.08.2006
For the first time a star has been observed in real-time as it goes supernova – a mind bogglingly powerful explosion as the star ends its life, the resulting cosmic eruption briefly outshining an entire galaxy. UK scientists, in collaboration with international colleagues, used NASA's Swift satellite and a combination of orbiting and ground-based observatories to catch a supernova in the act of exploding. The results, including an associated and intriguing Gamma Ray Burst [GRB], appear in 31 August issue of Nature.

The event began on the 18th February, 2006, in a star forming galaxy about 440 million light-years away toward the constellation Aries. At that time it was immediately realised that this was an unusual gamma-ray burst, about 25 times closer and 100 times longer than a typical gamma-ray burst. The burst lasted for almost 40 minutes as opposed to a typical GRB of a few milliseconds to tens of seconds. Because the burst was so long Swift was able to observe the bulk of the explosion with all three of its instruments: the Burst Alert Telescope, which detected the burst and relayed the location to ground observatories within 20 seconds; the X-ray telescope [XRT] and Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope [UVOT], which provide high-resolution imagery and spectra across a broad range of wavelengths.

“The fact that Swift can re-point very fast, slewing round to bring the XRT and UVOT to bear on the burst allowed us to get onto it very quickly indeed, enabling us to observe the critically important early behaviour of the event” remarked Dr. Alex Blustin from University College London’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory [UCL/MSSL],

Careful, multi-wavelength analysis of space and ground-based observations has now revealed exactly what took place.

The exceptionally long burst, in the form of a jet of high-energy X-rays, pierced through the doomed star from its core and sent out a warning within minutes that a supernova was imminent. As the GRB faded away the massive star blew itself into smithereens.

"This GRB was the most extraordinary evolving object yet seen by Swift,” said team member Dr. Paul O’Brien at the University of Leicester. “The three on-board telescopes all detected a slowly brightening then fading object. The results suggest a broad jet expanded into the surroundings but it was accompanied by a slower-moving and incredibly hot - two million degree - bubble of gas produced from the shock-wave of the exploding star”.

Swift's three telescopes - covering gamma ray, X-ray, ultraviolet and optical wavelengths - captured X-rays fading to ultraviolet and then optical light, evidence of the shock wave from the explosion pushing exploded star material into the surrounding medium. Dr. Alex Blustin and colleague Dr. Mat Page, also from UCL/MSSL, conducted the analysis of Swift’s ultra violet and optical data that tracked the expansion of the shock wave from the explosion.

Paul O’Brien added,” This is the first time such an extraordinary event has been seen from a GRB. The thermal component of the supernova shock wave was clearly seen in this case as the GRB itself was fairly modest, some 100 times less than a typical GRB - a mere ten million billion times the power of the Sun!"

UK astronomers from the Universities of Leicester and Hertfordshire were part of a group led by Italy’s National Institute for Astrophysics that used the European Southern Observatory’s 8.2-metre Very Large Telescope [VLT] in Chile and the University of California’s Lick Observatory Shane 3-metre telescope to obtain regularly-sampled optical spectroscopy of the shock wave. Two days later the classical supernova, a glowing cloud of gas powered by the decay of radioactive debris from the dead star, was beginning to outshine the fading shock wave.

Dr Andrew Levan, University of Hertfordshire said,” As well as studying the early evolution of the supernova for the first time these observations also show how the material ejected in the explosion evolve in the following days and weeks, the timescales on which supernovae are normally studied”. Dr. Levan added,” This shows that the supernova associated with this GRB is a transition object, brighter than most supernovae in the universe, but fainter than those previously seen with GRB’s. Understanding the reasons for this is a crucial step in understanding why only a small percentage of massive stars can create GRB’s”.

“Usually these events are not detected until after the supernova has brightened substantially in the optical wavelength, many days after the initial explosion”, commented Prof. Keith Mason, UK lead investigator for the UVOT telescope on Swift and CEO of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council [PPARC],” but on this occasion we were able to study the remarkable event in all its glory from the very beginning”.

Peter Barratt | alfa
Further information:
http://www.pparc.ac.uk
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/swift/bursts/oddball_burst.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Climate cycles may explain how running water carved Mars' surface features
02.12.2016 | Penn State

nachricht What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?
02.12.2016 | University of Toronto

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: 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...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

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

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>