Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A Starburst Captured: Students Photograph Exploding Star in Pinwheel Galaxy

11.10.2011
In the Pinwheel Galaxy some 21 light years from Earth, a supernova beams brightly, out-shining its cosmic neighbors and causing a stir among starwatchers.

Students in University of Delaware Prof. Judi Provencal’s Observational Astronomy class (PHYS 469) photographed the exploding star last week using the telescope at Mt. Cuba Astronomical Observatory in Greenville, Del., which has a lens spanning 24 inches in diameter.

“The supernova, a star that is blowing itself to bits, is the brightest object in the lower center of the image,” Provencal notes. “It is the brightest supernova in the last 20 years and might be visible with binoculars.”

The bursting star, known as PTF 11kly, will eventually fade over the next year or so and then turn into a neutron star or a black hole. The material ejected when it exploded may form new stars.

According to Provencal, PTF 11kly is a “Type 1a” supernova, which means it’s half of a “stellar team” known as a binary star. One of the stars is an “ordinary” star, and the other is a white dwarf, a super-dense star that is the size of the Earth, but has the mass of the sun. Because it doesn’t have nuclear reactions firing away in its core, the white dwarf does not generate any internal energy. Instead, it’s supported against gravity by “electron degeneracy pressure” which occurs when a huge number of electrons are compacted tightly together in a small volume.

The two stars of the binary team orbit very closely together, so close that the “ordinary” star transfers material to the white dwarf. When the white dwarf gains enough material that it reaches a critical mass (about 1.4 times the mass of the sun), electron degeneracy pressure fails and the star will collapse in on itself. This produces a lot of energy, which we see as the supernova, Provencal explains.

“These are the types of supernova that were used to determine that the universe is actually accelerating in its expansion, which has led to the whole field of dark energy,” Provencal says.

In the Pinwheel Galaxy some 21 light years from Earth, a supernova beams brightly, out-shining its cosmic neighbors and causing a stir among starwatchers.

Students in University of Delaware Prof. Judi Provencal’s Observational Astronomy class (PHYS 469) photographed the exploding star last week using the telescope at Mt. Cuba Astronomical Observatory in Greenville, Del., which has a lens spanning 24 inches in diameter.The Pinwheel Galaxy inhabited by the PTF 11kly supernova was discovered in 1781 by French astronomer Pierre Mechain, who thought it was a nebula, a gas cloud from which new stars are born. Erwin Hubble later would show that it is indeed a full-fledged galaxy.

Mechain’s fellow astronomer Charles Messier would include it as an item, today still referred to as “Messier 101,” or M101, in his 1781 astronomical catalog.

“Messier’s list was supposed to help with comet hunting since it was a list of fuzzy objects that didn’t move in the sky. Comet hunting was a big deal back then,” notes Provencal.

The Pinwheel Galaxy is a spiral galaxy much like our own Milky Way. It’s called a spiral galaxy for the spiral arms or “spokes” that curve away from a center disk of highly concentrated stars. The stars in these spokes are younger and thus hotter and brighter than the stars at the center.

Although the Pinwheel Galaxy is playing host to the brightest, nearest supernova seen from Earth in years, starwatchers should know that our own Milky Way also sports supernovae from time to time—the most recent one was recorded in 1572, Provencal says.

Tracey Bryant | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.udel.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Cherned up to the maximum
10.07.2020 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemische Physik fester Stoffe

nachricht Porous graphene ribbons doped with nitrogen for electronics and quantum computing
09.07.2020 | University of Basel

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: The spin state story: Observation of the quantum spin liquid state in novel material

New insight into the spin behavior in an exotic state of matter puts us closer to next-generation spintronic devices

Aside from the deep understanding of the natural world that quantum physics theory offers, scientists worldwide are working tirelessly to bring forth a...

Im Focus: Excitation of robust materials

Kiel physics team observed extremely fast electronic changes in real time in a special material class

In physics, they are currently the subject of intensive research; in electronics, they could enable completely new functions. So-called topological materials...

Im Focus: Electrons in the fast lane

Solar cells based on perovskite compounds could soon make electricity generation from sunlight even more efficient and cheaper. The laboratory efficiency of these perovskite solar cells already exceeds that of the well-known silicon solar cells. An international team led by Stefan Weber from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz has found microscopic structures in perovskite crystals that can guide the charge transport in the solar cell. Clever alignment of these "electron highways" could make perovskite solar cells even more powerful.

Solar cells convert sunlight into electricity. During this process, the electrons of the material inside the cell absorb the energy of the light....

Im Focus: The lightest electromagnetic shielding material in the world

Empa researchers have succeeded in applying aerogels to microelectronics: Aerogels based on cellulose nanofibers can effectively shield electromagnetic radiation over a wide frequency range – and they are unrivalled in terms of weight.

Electric motors and electronic devices generate electromagnetic fields that sometimes have to be shielded in order not to affect neighboring electronic...

Im Focus: Gentle wall contact – the right scenario for a fusion power plant

Quasi-continuous power exhaust developed as a wall-friendly method on ASDEX Upgrade

A promising operating mode for the plasma of a future power plant has been developed at the ASDEX Upgrade fusion device at Max Planck Institute for Plasma...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Contact Tracing Apps against COVID-19: German National Academy Leopoldina hosts international virtual panel discussion

07.07.2020 | Event News

International conference QuApps shows status quo of quantum technology

02.07.2020 | Event News

Dresden Nexus Conference 2020: Same Time, Virtual Format, Registration Opened

19.05.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

X-ray scattering shines light on protein folding

10.07.2020 | Life Sciences

Looking at linkers helps to join the dots

10.07.2020 | Materials Sciences

Surprisingly many peculiar long introns found in brain genes

10.07.2020 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>