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Friday, Dec 02, 2022

Stunning image of supernova remnant gives clues about star’s death

Astronomers combined data of a supernova remnant from the Chandra X-ray telescope, NASA's defunct Spitzer Space telescope and Hubble to turn black the clock.

Composite image of a supernova remnantThis NASA image of the supernova remnant is a composite of X-ray data from the Chandra X-ray telescope and optical data from Hubble. (Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/GSFC/B. J. Williams et al.; Optical: NASA/ESA/STScI)

Astronomers studying the remains of a supernova captured using NASA telescopes have found clues that can help determine the timeline of the star’s demise. Called SNR 0519-69.0, the supernova remnant is the debris from an explosion of a white dwarf star.

According to NASA’s Chandra Ray Observatory, the star underwent a thermonuclear explosion after reaching critical mass. Star usually do this by pulling in matter from a companion star or merging with another dwarf star. This type of supernova is called a Type Ia, and scientists use them for a wide range of scientific studies, from studying thermonuclear explosions to measuring the distance to galaxies that are billions of light-years away.

SNR 0519-69.0, or SNR 0519 in short, is located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, which is a small galaxy about 160,000 light years away from our planet. X-ray data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and optical data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope was used to create this composite image.

Low, medium and high energy X-rays from the supernova remnant are depicted in green, blue and purple respectively with these colours overlapping in some regions to appear white. The perimeter around the remnant in red and the stars around the remnant in white are from the optical data.

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Scientists used data from Chandra, Hubble and NASA’s retired Spitzer Space telescope to “rewind” the stellar evolution and explosion that resulted in SNR 0519. They determined how long ago the star exploded and learned about its environment. Their research is published in The Astrophysical Journal.

They compared Hubble images of SNR 0519 from 2010, 2011 and 2020 to measure the speeds of the material in the blast wave from the explosions. According to their estimates, it ranges from about 6 million to 9 million kilometres per hour. If the speed was closer to the upper end of that estimate, the scientists determined that the light from the explosion would have reached Earth about 670 years ago.

But it is likely that the material has slowed down since the star’s explosion and that it happened more recently 670 years ago. The researchers found that the regions that the brightest regions in X-ray images are where the slowest-moving material is located. They also found that no X-ray emission is associated with the fastest-moving material.

First published on: 15-09-2022 at 02:52:32 pm
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