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This unusual supernova made scientists reassess the death of giant stars

Observations from the SN 2016iet supernova led scientists and astronomers to rethink the way giant stars ended in the universe earlier.

By: Tech Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: August 25, 2019 6:16:56 pm
supernova, SN 2016iet supernova, giant star explosion, dead star, dead star in space, Center for Astrophysics Harvard & Smithsonian, European Space Agency, ESA, Gaia satellite, star with 200 times mass of the Sun Artist’s concept of the SN 2016iet pair-instability supernova. (Image source: Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian)

A supernova was observed in an isolated corner of the universe which might just be one of the strongest explosions ever spotted. It has also revealed a number of unusual qualities. The observations from the SN 2016iet supernova have led space scientists to rethink the way giant stars ended in the universe earlier. this is the largest star which the scientists have ever witnessed get destroyed in a supernova, the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian said in a statement.

The star, which was located in a previously uncatalogued galaxy, around one billion lightyears from Earth, was spotted first by the Gaia satellite of the European Space Agency (ESA) back in November 2016. After nearly three years of observations, a team of space scientists came to a conclusion that the SN 2016iet supernova began as a star with 200 times the mass of the Sun and had formed in an isolated zone which was approximately 54,000 lightyears from the center of its host dwarf galaxy.

According to the observations, the star lost about 85 per cent of its mass during its short lifespan of only a few million years before it finally exploded, and the material it had shed in the last decade before its demise had collided with the debris which came from its explosion. This led to the unusual qualities of the supernova.

“Everything about this supernova looks different, its change in brightness with time, its spectrum, the galaxy it is located in, and even where it’s located within its galaxy,” Edo Berger, Professor of Astronomy at Harvard University, said in the statement. “We sometimes see supernovas that are unusual in one respect but otherwise are normal; this one is unique in every possible way.”

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SN 2016iet supernova also had an incredibly long duration and large energy, unusual chemical fingerprints, and lack of metals in its environment – none of which has been observed in other supernovas. The SN 2016iet supernova marked the first-ever observation of a pair-instability supernova which space scientists were able to observe.

A pair-instability supernova occurs when the core of a dying star emits gamma-rays which leads to the formation of particle and antiparticle pairs, which cause a thermonuclear blast that destroys the star.

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Berger said that the idea of pair-instability supernovas has been around for decades, “But finally having the first observational example that puts a dying star in the right regime of mass, with the right behavior, and in a metal-poor dwarf galaxy is an incredible step forward.”

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First published on: 22-08-2019 at 07:38:53 pm

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