Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The Purple Rose of Virgo

28.03.2007
VLT Image of Bright Supernova in Spiral Galaxy

Until now NGC 5584 was just one galaxy among many others, located to the West of the Virgo Cluster. Known only as a number in galaxy surveys, its sheer beauty is now revealed in all its glory in a new VLT image. Since 1 March, this purple cosmic rose also holds the brightest stellar explosion of the year, known as SN 2007af.

Located about 75 million light years away towards the constellation Virgo ('the Virgin'), NGC 5584 is a galaxy slightly smaller than the Milky Way. It belongs, however, to the same category: both are barred spirals.

Spiral galaxies are composed of a 'bulge' and a flat disc. The bulge hosts old stars and usually a central supermassive black hole. Younger stars reside in the disc, forming the characteristic spiral structures from which the galaxies get their name. Barred spirals are crossed by a bright band of stars. In 2000, using ESO's Very Large Telescope, astronomers discovered the smallest, faintest, and most massive spirals (see ESO PR 12/00 and 25/00).

In this amazing new image of NGC 5584 two dominant spiral arms are clearly visible, while the others are deformed, probably due to interactions with other galaxies. Luminous patches are spread all over the disc, indicating that stars are being formed in this gigantic rose at a frantic pace.

Something even brighter, however, catches the eye in this picture. Any image taken before the end of February would not have shown the luminous spot located at the lower right of the galaxy's centre. As can be seen, the newly found object is much brighter than the centre of the galaxy itself. Its name? SN 2007af, the 32nd supernova discovered this year. Its presence signals the dramatic death of a star with a mass comparable to that of the Sun.

SN 2007af, the brightest supernova of the year (so far), was discovered on 1 March by the Japanese supernova hunter Koichi Itagaki. He pointed his 60-centimetre telescope towards the Virgo constellation and discovered something that was not there before: SN 2007af. When it was discovered, its brightness (apparent visible magnitude of 15.4) was about seven times fainter than that of its host galaxy, NGC 5584. It has since brightened by the same factor of 7, reaching an apparent magnitude of 13.3 and making it observable by many amateur astronomers with smaller telescopes.

Observations on 4 March with ESO's New Technology Telescope at La Silla revealed that this energetic explosion is a Type Ia supernova that was observed a few days before it reached its maximal luminosity. Matter from the doomed star is ejected with velocities above 15,000 km/s.

Astronomers are observing SN2007af with ESO's VLT, with the aim of studying the geometry of the material ejected by the supernova, and thereby better understanding the explosion mechanism (see also ESO 44/06).

A Type Ia supernova is thought to be the result of the explosion of a small and dense star - a white dwarf - inside a binary system. As its companion continuously spills matter onto the white dwarf, the white dwarf reaches a critical mass, leading to a fatal instability and the supernova.

Type Ia supernovae are apparently quite similar to one another. This gives them a very useful role as 'standard candles' that can be used to measure cosmic distances. Their peak brightness rivals that of their parent galaxy, hence qualifying them as prime cosmic yardsticks. Astronomers have exploited this fortunate circumstance to study the expansion history of our Universe.

However Type Ia supernovae are rare events: a galaxy like the Milky Way may host a Type Ia supernova on average only every 400 years. Even so, SN 2007af is not the only brilliant detonation recently recorded in NGC 5584. Furthermore, it seems that Japanese amateur astronomers have a special talent for catching supernova explosions in this purple spiral. Indeed, in 1996 Aoki Masakatsu identified SN 1996aq in NGC 5584, a difficult to classify supernova subject to a hot discussion due to its ambiguous nature.

Henri Boffin | alfa
Further information:
http://www.eso.org/outreach/press-rel/pr-2007/pr-16-07.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Further Improvement of Qubit Lifetime for Quantum Computers
09.12.2016 | Forschungszentrum Jülich

nachricht Electron highway inside crystal
09.12.2016 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

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: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

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...

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

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>