The new study shows that the supernova remnant RCW 86 is much younger than previously thought. As such, the formation of the remnant appears to coincide with a supernova observed by Chinese astronomers in 185 A.D. The study used data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton Observatory,
"There have been previous suggestions that RCW 86 is the remains of the supernova from 185 A.D.," said Jacco Vink of University of Utrecht, the Netherlands, and lead author of the study. "These new X-ray data greatly strengthen the case."When a massive star runs out of fuel, it collapses on itself, creating a supernova that can outshine an entire galaxy. The intense explosion hurls the outer layers of the star into space and produces powerful shock waves. The remains of the star and the material it encounters are heated to millions of degrees and can emit intense X-ray radiation for thousands of years.
"Our new calculations tell us the remnant is about 2,000 years old," said Aya Bamba, a coauthor from the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN), Japan. "Previously astronomers had estimated an age of 10,000 years."
The younger age for RCW 86 may explain an astronomical event observed almost 2000 years ago. In 185 AD, Chinese astronomers (and possibly the Romans) recorded the appearance of a new bright star. The Chinese noted that it sparkled like a star and did not appear to move in the sky, arguing against it being a comet. Also, the observers noticed that the star took about eight months to fade, consistent with modern observations of supernovas.
RCW 86 had previously been suggested as the remnant from the 185 AD event, based on the historical records of the object's position. However, uncertainties about the age provided significant doubt about the association.
"Before this work I had doubts myself about the link, but our study indicates that the age of RCW 86 matches that of the oldest known supernova explosion in recorded history," said Vink. "Astronomers are used to referencing results from 5 or 10 years ago, so it's remarkable that we can build upon work from nearly 2000 years ago."
The smaller age estimate for the remnant follows directly from a higher expansion velocity. By examining the energy distribution of the X-rays, a technique known as spectroscopy, the team found most of the X-ray emission was caused by high-energy electrons moving through a magnetic field. This is a well-known process that normally gives rise to low-energy radio emission. However, only very high shock velocities can accelerate the electrons to such high energies that X-ray radiation is emitted.
"The energies reached in this supernova remnant are extremely high," said Andrei Bykov, another team member from the Ioffe Institute, St. Peterburg, Russia. "In fact, the particle energies are greater than what can be achieved by the most modern particle accelerators."
The difference in age estimates for RCW 86 is due to differences in expansion velocities measured for the supernova remnant. The authors speculate that these variations arise because RCW 86 is expanding into an irregular bubble blown by a wind from the progenitor star before it exploded. In some directions, the shock wave has encountered a dense region outside the bubble and slowed down, whereas in other regions the shock remains inside the bubble and is still moving rapidly. These regions give the most accurate estimate of the age.
The study describing these results appeared in the September 1 issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for the agency's Science Mission Directorate. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Cambridge, Mass., controls science and flight operations from the Chandra X-ray Center, Cambridge, Mass. XMM-Newton is an European Space Agency science mission managed at the European Space Research and Technology Centre, Noordwijk, the Netherlands for the Directorate of the Scientific Programme.
Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy
24.03.2017 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core
24.03.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy