Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A star's death comes to light

11.01.2007
Using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, scientists have created a stunning new image of one of the youngest supernova remnants in the galaxy.

This new view of the debris of an exploded star helps astronomers solve a long-standing mystery, with implications for understanding how a star's life can end catastrophically and for gauging the expansion of the universe.

Over 400 years ago, sky watchers -- including the famous astronomer Johannes Kepler -- noticed a bright new object in the night sky. Since the telescope had not yet been invented, only the unaided eye could be used to watch as a new star that was initially brighter than Jupiter dimmed over the following weeks.

Chandra's latest image marks a new phase in understanding the object now known as Kepler's supernova remnant. By combining nearly nine days of Chandra observations, astronomers have generated an X-ray image with unprecedented detail of one of the brightest recorded supernovas in the Milky Way galaxy.

The explosion of the star that created the Kepler remnant blasted the stellar remains into space, heating the gases to millions of degrees and generating highly energized particles. Copious X-ray light, like that shining from many supernova remnants, was produced.

Astronomers have studied Kepler intensively over the past three decades with radio, optical and X-ray telescopes, but its origin has remained a puzzle. On the one hand, the presence of large amounts of iron and the absence of a detectable neutron star points toward a so-called Type Ia supernova. These events occur when a white dwarf star pulls material from an orbiting companion until the white dwarf becomes unstable and is destroyed by a thermonuclear explosion.

On the other hand, when viewed in optical light, the supernova remnant appears to be expanding into dense material that is rich in nitrogen. This would suggest Kepler belongs to a different type of supernova (known as "Type II") that is created from the collapse of a single massive star that sheds material before exploding. Type Ia supernovas do not normally have such surroundings.

A team of astronomers, led by Stephen Reynolds of North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C., was able to use the Chandra dataset to address this mystery. By comparing the relative amounts of oxygen and iron atoms in the supernova, the scientists were able to determine that Kepler resulted from a Type Ia supernova.

In solving the mystery of Kepler's identity, Reynolds and his team have also given an explanation for the dense material in the remnant. Kepler could be the nearest example of a relatively rare "prompt" Type Ia explosion, which occur in more massive progenitors only about 100 million years after the star formed rather than several billion years. If that is the case, Kepler could teach astronomers more about all Type Ia supernovas and the ways in which prompt explosions from massive stars differ from their more common cousins associated with lower mass stars. This information is essential to improve the reliability of the use of Type Ia stars as "standard candles" for cosmological studies of dark energy as well as to understand their role as the source of most of the iron in the universe.

In the new Chandra Kepler image, red represents low-energy X-rays and shows material around the star -- dominated by oxygen -- that has been heated up by a blast wave from the star's explosion. The yellow color shows slightly higher energy X-rays, mostly iron formed in the supernova, while green (medium-energy X-rays) shows other elements from the exploded star. The blue color represents the highest energy X-rays and shows a shock front generated by the explosion.

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

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'
26.05.2017 | University of Leicester

nachricht Measured for the first time: Direction of light waves changed by quantum effect
24.05.2017 | Vienna 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 the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>