From astrobites: “A White Dwarf Kicked Out of a Supernova”

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NASA/JPL-Caltech

Title: Further insight on the hypervelocity white dwarf, LP 40-365 (GD 492): a nearby emissary from a single-degenerate Type Ia supernova
Author: Roberto Raddi, Mark Hollands, Detlev Koester, et al.
First Author’s Institution: University of Warwick, UK

Status: Accepted to ApJ

I’m sure you’ve heard of Type Ia supernovae. They’re a certain type of exploding star, most famous for the fact that their brightness can be easily calculated from the other features of the explosion. If you know how bright something is, and you measure how much of the light reaches you, that tells you how far away the light source must be; “standard candle” is the common term for objects like this. Type Ia supernovae are useful to astronomers who want to measure the distance to far-away galaxies, and they form one link in the cosmic distance ladder.

Despite how useful Type Ia supernovae are, we still don’t fully understand how they happen. We know that you need a white dwarf, and you need that white dwarf’s mass to increase until it nears a critical point (the Chandrasekhar mass limit, which is about 1.4 times the mass of the Sun). What we don’t know is what makes a white dwarf’s mass increase to reach that point. There are two models that we usually consider for how this happens. Firstly, the white dwarf could slowly pull matter from a nearby star. Secondly, two white dwarfs could collide. The two models are often called “single-degenerate” and “double-degenerate”, because “degenerate objects” is another term for white dwarfs (a term related to the physics of their structure). The advantages and disadvantages of the two models have been debated for decades. In recent years the debate seems to have leaned more towards the double-degenerate channel for most Type Ia supernovae, and the single-degenerate channel for some unusual-looking Type Ia supernovae.

Last year, a team of astronomers found a white dwarf named LP40-365. It’s moving through the galaxy incredibly fast (about 500–800 km/s), and it contains an unusual collection of elements. The authors of the discovery paper suggest that this is a leftover from a Type Ia supernova — a white dwarf that tried to go bang but survived. Today’s authors studied spectra of the star (from the Copernico telescope) in order to get a better idea of what is going on with it.


Copernica Telescope located on a mountain ridge approximately 4 kilometers southeast of and 350 m higher than the town of Asiago Italy

See the full article here .

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