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  • richardmitnick 6:51 pm on February 14, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Caltech Palomar Intermediate Palomar Transient Factory, , Supernovas   

    From ars technica: “Observations catch a supernova three hours after it exploded” 

    Ars Technica
    ars technica

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    BRIGHT AND EARLY Scientists caught an early glimpse of an exploding star in the galaxy NGC7610 (shown before the supernova). Light from the explosion revealed that gas (orange) surrounded the star, indicating that the star spurted out gas in advance of the blast.

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    The remains of an earlier Type II supernova. NASA

    The skies are full of transient events. If you don’t happen to have a telescope pointed at the right place at the right time, you can miss anything from the transit of a planet to the explosion of a star. But thanks to the development of automated survey telescopes, the odds of getting lucky have improved considerably.

    In October of 2013, the telescope of the intermediate Palomar Transient Factory worked just as expected, capturing a sudden brightening that turned out to reflect the explosion of a red supergiant in a nearby galaxy.

    Caltech Palomar Intermediate Palomar Transient Factory telescope at the Samuel Oschin Telescope at Palomar Observatory,located in San Diego County, California, United States
    Caltech Palomar Intermediate Palomar Transient Factory telescope at the Samuel Oschin Telescope at Palomar Observatory,located in San Diego County, California, United States

    The first images came from within three hours of the supernova itself, and followup observations tracked the energy released as it blasted through the nearby environment. The analysis of the event was published on Monday in Nature Physics, and it suggests the explosion followed shortly after the star ejected large amounts of material.

    This isn’t the first supernova we’ve witnessed as it happened; the Kepler space telescope captured two just as the energy of the explosion of the star’s core burst through the surface. By comparison, observations three hours later are relative latecomers. But SN 2013fs (as it was later termed) provided considerably more detail, as followup observations were extensive and covered all wavelengths, from X-rays to the infrared.

    Critically, spectroscopy began within six hours of the explosion. This technique separates the light according to its wavelength, allowing researchers to identify the presence of specific atoms based on the colors of light they absorb. In this case, the spectroscopy picked up the presence of atoms such as oxygen and helium, which lost most of its electrons. The presence of these heavily ionized oxygen atoms surged for several hours, then was suddenly cut off 11 hours later.

    The authors explain this behavior by positing that the red supergiant ejected a significant amount of material before it exploded. The light from the explosion then swept through the vicinity, eventually catching up with the material and stripping the electrons off its atoms. The sudden cutoff came when the light exited out the far side of the material, allowing it to return to a lower energy state, where it stayed until the physical debris of the explosion slammed into it about five days later.

    Since the light of the explosion is moving at the speed of light (duh), we know how far away the material was: six light hours, or roughly the Sun-Pluto distance. Some blurring in the spectroscopy also indicates that it was moving at about 100 kilometers a second. Based on its speed and the distance it is from the star that ejected it, they could calculate when it was ejected: less than 500 days before the explosion. The total mass of the material also suggests that the star was losing about 0.1 percent of the Sun’s mass a year.

    Separately, the authors estimate that it is unlikely there is a single star in our galaxy with the potential to be less than 500 days from explosion, so we probably won’t be able to look at an equivalent star—assuming we knew how to identify it.

    Large stars like red supergiants do sporadically eject material, so there’s always the possibility that the ejection-explosion series occurred by chance. But this isn’t the first supernova we’ve seen where explosion material has slammed into a shell of material that had been ejected earlier. Indeed, the closest red supergiant, Betelgeuse, has a stable shell of material a fair distance from its surface.

    What could cause these ejections? For most of their relatively short lives, these giant stars are fusing relatively light elements, each of which is present in sufficient amounts to burn for millions of years. But once they start to shift to heavier elements, higher rates of fusion are needed to counteract gravity, which is constantly drawing the elements in the core. As a result, the core undergoes major rearrangements as it changes fuels, sometimes within a span of a couple of years. It’s possible, suggests an accompanying perspective by astronomer Norbert Langer, that these rearrangements propagate to the surface and force the ejection of matter.

    For now, we’ll have to explore this possibility using models of the interiors of giant stars. But with enough survey telescopes in operation, we may have more data to test the idea against before too long.

    Nature Physics, 2017. DOI: 10.1038/NPHYS4025

    See the full article here .

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    Ars Technica was founded in 1998 when Founder & Editor-in-Chief Ken Fisher announced his plans for starting a publication devoted to technology that would cater to what he called “alpha geeks”: technologists and IT professionals. Ken’s vision was to build a publication with a simple editorial mission: be “technically savvy, up-to-date, and more fun” than what was currently popular in the space. In the ensuing years, with formidable contributions by a unique editorial staff, Ars Technica became a trusted source for technology news, tech policy analysis, breakdowns of the latest scientific advancements, gadget reviews, software, hardware, and nearly everything else found in between layers of silicon.

    Ars Technica innovates by listening to its core readership. Readers have come to demand devotedness to accuracy and integrity, flanked by a willingness to leave each day’s meaningless, click-bait fodder by the wayside. The result is something unique: the unparalleled marriage of breadth and depth in technology journalism. By 2001, Ars Technica was regularly producing news reports, op-eds, and the like, but the company stood out from the competition by regularly providing long thought-pieces and in-depth explainers.

    And thanks to its readership, Ars Technica also accomplished a number of industry leading moves. In 2001, Ars launched a digital subscription service when such things were non-existent for digital media. Ars was also the first IT publication to begin covering the resurgence of Apple, and the first to draw analytical and cultural ties between the world of high technology and gaming. Ars was also first to begin selling its long form content in digitally distributable forms, such as PDFs and eventually eBooks (again, starting in 2001).

    Nature Physics, 2017. DOI: 10.1038/NPHYS4025

     
  • richardmitnick 5:34 pm on April 6, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Supernovas   

    From phys.org: “Supernovae showered Earth with radioactive debris” 

    physdotorg
    phys.org

    April 6, 2016
    No writer credit found

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    Artist’s impression of supernova. Credit: Greg Stewart, SLAC National Accelerator Lab

    An international team of scientists has found evidence of a series of massive supernova explosions near our solar system, which showered the Earth with radioactive debris.

    The scientists found radioactive iron-60 in sediment and crust samples taken from the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

    The iron-60 was concentrated in a period between 3.2 and 1.7 million years ago, which is relatively recent in astronomical terms, said research leader Dr Anton Wallner from The Australian National University (ANU).

    “We were very surprised that there was debris clearly spread across 1.5 million years,” said Dr Wallner, a nuclear physicist in the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering. “It suggests there were a series of supernovae, one after another.

    “It’s an interesting coincidence that they correspond with when the Earth cooled and moved from the Pliocene into the Pleistocene period.”

    The team from Australia, the University of Vienna in Austria, Hebrew University in Israel, Shimizu Corporation and University of Tokyo, Nihon University and University of Tsukuba in Japan, Senckenberg Collections of Natural History Dresden and Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) in Germany, also found evidence of iron-60 from an older supernova around eight million years ago, coinciding with global faunal changes in the late Miocene.

    Some theories suggest cosmic rays from the supernovae could have increased cloud cover.

    Cassiopeia A false color image using Hubble and Spitzer telescopes and Chandra X-ray Observatory. Credit NASA JPL-Caltech
    Cassiopeia A false color image using Hubble and Spitzer telescopes and Chandra X-ray Observatory. Credit NASA JPL-Caltech

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope
    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/Spitzer Telescope
    NASA/Spitzer Telescope

    NASA/Chandra Telescope
    NASA/Chandra Telescope

    The scientists believe the supernovae in this case were less than 300 light years away, close enough to be visible during the day and comparable to the brightness of the Moon.

    Although Earth would have been exposed to an increased cosmic ray bombardment, the radiation would have been too weak to cause direct biological damage or trigger mass extinctions.

    The supernova explosions create many heavy elements and radioactive isotopes which are strewn into the cosmic neighbourhood.

    One of these isotopes is iron-60 which decays with a half-life of 2.6 million years, unlike its stable cousin iron-56. Any iron-60 dating from the Earth’s formation more than four billion years ago has long since disappeared.

    The iron-60 atoms reached Earth in minuscule quantities and so the team needed extremely sensitive techniques to identify the interstellar iron atoms.

    “Iron-60 from space is a million-billion times less abundant than the iron that exists naturally on Earth,” said Dr Wallner.

    Dr Wallner was intrigued by first hints of iron-60 in samples from the Pacific Ocean floor, found a decade ago by a group at TU Munich.

    He assembled an international team to search for interstellar dust from 120 ocean-floor samples spanning the past 11 million years.

    The first step was to extract all the iron from the ocean cores. This time-consuming task was performed by two groups, at HZDR and the University of Tokyo.

    The team then separated the tiny traces of interstellar iron-60 from the other terrestrial isotopes using the Heavy-Ion Accelerator at ANU and found it occurred all over the globe.

    The age of the cores was determined from the decay of other radioactive isotopes, beryllium-10 and aluminium-26, using accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) facilities at DREsden AMS (DREAMS) of HZDR, Micro Analysis Laboratory (MALT) at the University of Tokyo and the Vienna Environmental Research Accelerator (VERA) at the University of Vienna.

    The dating showed the fallout had only occurred in two time periods, 3.2 to 1.7 million years ago and eight million years ago. Current results from TU Munich are in line with these findings.

    A possible source of the supernovae is an ageing star cluster, which has since moved away from Earth, independent work led by TU Berlin has proposed in a parallel publication. The cluster has no large stars left, suggesting they have already exploded as supernovae, throwing out waves of debris.

    More information: Recent near-Earth supernovae probed by global deposition of interstellar radioactive 60Fe, Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature17196

    The science team:

    A. Wallner, J. Feige, N. Kinoshita, M. Paul, L. K. Fifield, R. Golser, M. Honda, U. Linnemann, H. Matsuzaki, S. Merchel, G. Rugel, S. G. Tims, P. Steier, T. Yamagata & S. R. Winkler

    Affiliations

    Department of Nuclear Physics, Research School of Physics and Engineering, The Australian National University (ANU), Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2601, Australia
    A. Wallner, L. K. Fifield & S. G. Tims
    University of Vienna, Faculty of Physics—Isotope Research, VERA Laboratory, Währinger Straße 17, 1090 Vienna, Austria
    J. Feige, R. Golser, P. Steier & S. R. Winkler
    Institute of Technology, Shimizu Corporation, Tokyo 135-8530, Japan
    N. Kinoshita
    Racah Institute of Physics, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem 91904, Israel
    M. Paul
    Graduate School of Pure and Applied Sciences, University of Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8577, Japan
    M. Honda
    Senckenberg Collections of Natural History Dresden, GeoPlasmaLab, Königsbrücker Landstraße 159, Dresden 01109, Germany
    U. Linnemann
    MALT (Micro Analysis Laboratory, Tandem accelerator), The University Museum, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo 113-0032, Japan
    H. Matsuzaki
    Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR), Helmholtz Institute for Resource Technology, 01328 Dresden, Germany
    S. Merchel & G. Rugel
    Graduate School of Integrated Basic Sciences, Nihon University, Tokyo 156-8550, Japan
    T. Yamagata

    Contributions

    A.W. initiated the study and wrote the main paper together with J.F., M.P. and L.K.F.; all authors were involved in the project and commented on the paper. A.W., with J.F., L.K.F. and S.R.W., organized the Eltanin sediment samples. N.K. and M.P. organized the crust samples. S.M. and U.L. organized the nodules. J.F. and S.M. were primarily responsible for sample preparation of the sediment and nodules and N.K. was responsible for the crusts. A.W., L.K.F. and S.G.T. performed the AMS measurements for 60Fe at the ANU. P.S., S.R.W., J.F. and A.W. performed the 26Al and 10Be measurements at VERA. G.R., S.M. and J.F. performed 10Be measurements at HZDR. N.K., M.H., H.M. and T.Y. performed 10Be measurements at MALT. J.F., A.W. and N.K. performed the data analysis.

    See the full article here .

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    About Phys.org in 100 Words

    Phys.org™ (formerly Physorg.com) is a leading web-based science, research and technology news service which covers a full range of topics. These include physics, earth science, medicine, nanotechnology, electronics, space, biology, chemistry, computer sciences, engineering, mathematics and other sciences and technologies. Launched in 2004, Phys.org’s readership has grown steadily to include 1.75 million scientists, researchers, and engineers every month. Phys.org publishes approximately 100 quality articles every day, offering some of the most comprehensive coverage of sci-tech developments world-wide. Quancast 2009 includes Phys.org in its list of the Global Top 2,000 Websites. Phys.org community members enjoy access to many personalized features such as social networking, a personal home page set-up, RSS/XML feeds, article comments and ranking, the ability to save favorite articles, a daily newsletter, and other options.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:04 am on November 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Supernovas   

    From New Scientist: “Local supernova 2 million years ago solves cosmic ray puzzle” 

    NewScientist

    New Scientist

    17 November 2015
    Anna Nowogrodzki

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    NASA/CXC/SAO/Science Photo Library

    All signs point to a supernova. A stellar explosion 2 million years ago that flooded our neighbourhood with charged particles could be the answer to several cosmic puzzles.

    For years, astrophysicists have struggled to explain why there are so many high-energy cosmic rays – speeding charged particles that hit Earth from all directions. We’d expect most to have fled the galaxy long before reaching us, yet we see a lot of protons, as well as the antiprotons and positrons they produce in collisions.

    Researchers have previously proposed pulsars and dark matter to explain this oddity, but neither provides a complete solution: pulsars can’t explain the antiprotons, and dark matter can’t explain the antiprotons or positrons.

    A supernova could act as a local cosmic particle accelerator, but previous models haven’t been able to fully account for the number of cosmic rays.

    That might be because the distribution of these rays is uneven throughout the galaxy, says Dmitri Semikoz at the Astroparticle and Cosmology Laboratory in Paris. It’s like watching a firework display and assuming that the sky looks bright and colourful everywhere, instead of looking to see if someone recently set off fireworks nearby.

    Semikoz and his colleagues modelled a nearby supernova and predicted the cosmic ray energies we should see on Earth between 5000 and 10 million years later. Then they checked these against data from several current experiments.

    Ancient explosion

    The best fit was a single supernova exploding between 2 and 4 million years ago.

    And we already know about a supernova that fits this description. Parts of the deep ocean crust are thought to contain an isotope of iron that is the fingerprint of a 2-million-year-old supernova. The team suggests that this supernova could be the source of the cosmic rays.

    “The exciting thing is that in the end, the different things fit together,” says Michael Kachelriess of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. “This was far from obvious when we started.”

    The team’s model generates several other predictions about the positrons we should see, so the next step will be to test those by gathering more data, says Kachelriess.

    “The evidence is already very tantalising,” says Francis Halzen, an astrophysicist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Usually cosmic ray physics is one puzzle and one explanation. This is one explanation for many puzzles.”

    Journal reference: Physical Review Letters, DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.115.181103

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  • richardmitnick 12:16 pm on November 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From NRAO: “35 Years of Constraints on Thermonuclear Supernova Progenitors with the VLA” 

    NRAO Icon
    National Radio Astronomy Observatory

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    11.16.2015
    Laura Chomiuk, Alicia M. Soderberg, Roger A. Chevalier, Seth Bruzewski, Ryan J. Foley, Jerod Parrent, Jay Strader, Carles Badenes, Claes Fransson, Atish Kamble, Raffaella Margutti, Michael P. Rupen, & Joshua D. Simon

    Today, the progenitors of Type Ia Supernovae (SNe) and their lower-luminosity thermonuclear cousins remain shrouded in mystery. While researchers agree that these SNe mark the explosions of white dwarf stars, it is unclear what destabilizes the white dwarf: merger with another white dwarf, accretion from a H-rich main sequence or giant star, or perhaps interaction with a helium star? Deep radio observations with the VLA can tackle this puzzle by searching for material in the environments of SNe, left over from the process of mass transfer onto the white dwarf.

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    When a SN shock interacts with surrounding material, relativistic electrons are accelerated and magnetic fields are amplified, yielding synchrotron emission. Therefore, radio observations of SNe provide insight into pre-SN mass loss and SN progenitors. In a paper recently submitted to Astrophysical Journal, our team combined archival radio observations from 30 years of legacy VLA operations with new observations from the Karl G. Jansky VLA. This yields a sample of 85 thermonuclear SNe observed by the VLA in the first year following explosion. None are detected. These radio limits imply that Type Ia supernovae explode in low-density environments.

    We use our limits on the density of material surrounding these SNe to constrain the fraction of thermonuclear SNe that might have red giant companions. We make use of legacy VLA observations of Galactic symbiotic binaries carried out by E. Seaquist and collaborators to characterize the density of material around white dwarfs with red giant companions, and find that, for many SNe, we can rule out such symbiotic progenitors. We conclude that ≲10% of thermonuclear SNe have red giant companions.

    Future work with the VLA can improve upon these results via: (a) further observations of Galactic symbiotic binaries that more completely pin down their wind properties; (b) additional observations of a large number of Type Ia SNe, providing even stronger constraints on the fraction with red giant companion; and (c) analysis of radio observations at longer times after explosion (1-100 years, as the SN transitions to a SN remnant) to probe the SN environment at larger radii.

    See the full article here .

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    The NRAO operates a complementary, state-of-the-art suite of radio telescope facilities for use by the scientific community, regardless of institutional or national affiliation: the Very Large Array (VLA), the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT), and the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA)*.

    ALMA Array

    NRAO ALMA

    NRAO GBT
    NRAO GBT

    NRAO VLA
    NRAO VLA

    The NRAO is building two new major research facilities in partnership with the international community that will soon open new scientific frontiers: the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), and the Expanded Very Large Array (EVLA). Access to ALMA observing time by the North American astronomical community will be through the North American ALMA Science Center (NAASC).
    *The Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) comprises ten radio telescopes spanning 5,351 miles. It’s the world’s largest, sharpest, dedicated telescope array. With an eye this sharp, you could be in Los Angeles and clearly read a street sign in New York City!

    Astronomers use the continent-sized VLBA to zoom in on objects that shine brightly in radio waves, long-wavelength light that’s well below infrared on the spectrum. They observe blazars, quasars, black holes, and stars in every stage of the stellar life cycle. They plot pulsars, exoplanets, and masers, and track asteroids and planets.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:37 am on November 6, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From LBL- “Supernova Twins: Making Standard Candles More Standard Than Ever” 

    Berkeley Logo

    Berkeley Lab

    November 5, 2015
    Paul Preuss 415-272-3253

    Less than 20 years ago the world learned that the universe is expanding ever faster, propelled by dark energy. The discovery was made possible by Type Ia supernovae; extraordinarily bright and remarkably similar in brightness, they serve as standard candles essential for probing the universe’s history.

    In fact, Type Ia supernovae are far from standard. Intervening dust can redden and dim them, and the physics of their thermonuclear explosions differs — a single white dwarf (an Earth-sized star as massive as our sun) may explode after borrowing mass from a companion star, or two orbiting white dwarfs may collide and explode. These “normal” Type Ia’s can vary in brightness by as much as 40 percent. Brightness dispersion can be reduced by well-proven methods, but cosmology continues to be done with catalogues of supernovae that may differ in brightness by as much as 15 percent.

    Now members of the international Nearby Supernova Factory (SNfactory), based at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), have dramatically reduced the scatter in supernova brightnesses. Using a sample of almost 50 nearby supernovae, they identified supernova twins — pairs whose spectra are closely matched — which reduced their brightness dispersion to a mere eight percent. The distance to these supernovae can be measured about twice as accurately as before.

    The SNfactory results are reported in Improving cosmological distance measurements using twin Type Ia supernovae, accepted for publication by the Astrophysical Journal (ApJ) and available online at arxiv.org/abs/1511.01102.

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    From left, Greg Aldering, Kyle Boone, Hannah Fakhouri and Saul Perlmutter of the Nearby Supernova Factory. Behind them is a poster of a supernova spectrum. Matching spectra among different supernovae can double the accuracy of distance measurements. (Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt/Berkeley Lab)

    Comparing apples to apples

    “Instead of concentrating on what’s causing the differences among supernovae, the supernova-twins approach is to look at the spectra and seek the best matches, so as to compare like with like,” says Greg Aldering, the Berkeley Lab cosmologist who leads the SNfactory. “The assumption we tested is that if two supernovae look the same, they probably are the same.”

    Hannah Fakhouri, the lead author of the ApJ paper, initiated the twin study for her doctoral thesis. She says that the theoretical advantages of a twins match-up had long been discussed at Berkeley Lab; for the researchers who founded the SNfactory, including her thesis advisor, Nobel laureate Saul Perlmutter, one of the main goals was gathering a dataset of sufficient quality to test hypotheses like supernova twinning.

    Fakhouri’s timing was good; she was able to take advantage of precise spectrophotometry — simultaneous measures of spectra and brightness — of numerous nearby Type Ia’s, collected using the SNfactory’s SuperNova Integral Field Spectrograph (SNIFS) on the University of Hawaii’s 2.2-meter telescope on Mauna Kea.

    U Hawaii 2.2 meter telescope
    U Hawaii 2.2 meter telescope interior
    U Hawaii’s 2.2-meter telescope

    “Nearby” is relative; some SNfactory supernovae are more than a billion light years away. But all yield more comprehensive and detailed measurements than the really distant supernovae also needed for cosmology. The twin study used data from the first years of the SNfactory’s observations; further work will use hundreds of high-quality Type Ia spectra from the SNfactory, so far the only large database in the world that can be used for this work.

    Despite the surprising results, Fakhouri describes the initial research as “a long slog,” requiring hard work and attention to detail. One challenge was making fair comparisons of time series, in which spectra are taken at frequent intervals as a supernova reaches maximum luminosity, then slowly fades; different colors (wavelengths) brighten and fade at different rates.

    Because of demands on telescope time and other issues like weather, the time series of different supernovae can’t be sampled uniformly. SNfactory member Rollin Thomas, of Berkeley Lab’s Computational Cosmology Center, recommended a mathematical procedure called Gaussian Process regression to fill the gaps. Fakhouri says the outcome “was a big breakthrough.”

    Cleaning up the spectra and ranking the supernovae for twinness was done completely “blind” — the researchers had no information about the supernovae except their spectra. “The unblinding process was suspenseful,” Fakhouri says. “We might have found that twinning was completely useless.” The result was a relief: the closer the twins’ spectra, the closer their brightnesses.

    The result strongly suggests that the long-accepted 15-percent uncertainty in Type Ia brightness is not merely statistical; it masks real but unknown differences in the nature of the supernovae themselves. The twin method’s dramatic reduction of brightness dispersion suggests that hidden unknowns about the physical explosion processes of twins have been severely reduced as well, a strong step toward using such supernovae as true standard candles.

    The best of the bunch

    When Fakhouri received her doctorate, graduate student Kyle Boone, second author of the ApJ paper, took over the final steps of the analysis. “I started by comparing the twin method to other methods for reducing dispersion in brightness.”

    The conventional approach has been to fit a curve through a series of data points of brightness versus time: a lightcurve. Dimmer Type Ia’s have narrower lightcurves and are redder; this fact is used to “standardize” supernovae, that is, to adjust their brightnesses to a common system.

    The twin method, says Boone, “beats the lightcurve method without even trying. Plus, we found this can be done with just one spectrum — an entire lightcurve is not needed.”

    Other recent methods are more subtle and detailed, but all have drawbacks compared to twinning. “The main competing technique gives excellent results but depends on wavelengths in the near infrared, where dispersion of the starting brightness is much less,” Boone says. “That will be difficult to use with distant supernovae, whose high redshift makes near-infrared wavelengths inaccessible.”

    Fakhouri says, “Supernovae offer unique advantages for cosmology, but we need multiple techniques,” including statistical methods charting how dark energy has shaped the structure of the universe. “The great thing about nature is that it provides different kinds of probes that can be decoupled from one another.”

    Supernovae are a singular asset, notes Aldering: “Supernovae found dark energy, and they still provide the strongest constraints on dark energy properties.”

    Says Boone, “We are working to see how well the twins technology can be applied to a very large sample of well-characterized, high-redshift supernovae that a space telescope like WFIRST could provide.” NASA plans to launch WFIRST, the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope, in the mid-2020s. Among other investigations, it will capture the spectra of many thousands of distant Type Ia supernovae.

    When based on a reference sample of well-measured supernovae large enough for every new supernova to find its perfect twin, twin-supernova technology could lead to precise measures of dark energy’s effect on the universe over the past 10 billion years. Each point in space and time so labeled will be an accurate milestone on the journey that led to the universe we live in today.

    This work was supported by DOE’s Office of Science and by the National Center for Scientific Research/National Institute of Nuclear and Particle Physics (CNRS/IN2P3), the CNRS National Institute for Earth Sciences and Astronomy (CNRS/INSU), and the Laboratory of Nuclear and High-Energy Physics (LPNHE) in France; support in Germany was provided by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and in China by Tsinghua University. The researchers acknowledge the assistance of the Palomar Observatory, the High Performance Wireless Research and Education Network (HPWREN), the University of Hawaii 2.2-meter telescope, and DOE’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) for storage and computing time.

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  • richardmitnick 2:09 pm on August 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Supernovas,   

    From Symmetry: “All about supernovae” 

    Symmetry

    1
    Twenty years ago, astronomers witnessed one of the brightest stellar explosions in more than 400 years. The titanic supernova, called SN 1987A, blazed with the power of 100 million suns for several months following its discovery on Feb. 23, 1987. Observations of SN 1987A, made over the past 20 years by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and many other major ground- and space-based telescopes, have significantly changed astronomers’ views of how massive stars end their lives. Astronomers credit Hubble’s sharp vision with yielding important clues about the massive star’s demise.

    This Hubble telescope image shows the supernova’s triple-ring system, including the bright spots along the inner ring of gas surrounding the exploded star. A shock wave of material unleashed by the stellar blast is slamming into regions along the inner ring, heating them up, and causing them to glow. The ring, about a light-year across, was probably shed by the star about 20,000 years before it exploded.
    Date Released: 22 February 2007
    Source http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2007/10/image/a/
    Author NASA, ESA, P. Challis, and R. Kirshner (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

    NASA Hubble Telescope
    NASA/ESA Hubble

    Somewhere in the cosmos, a star is reaching the end of its life.

    Maybe it’s a massive star, collapsing under its own gravity. Or maybe it’s a dense cinder of a star, greedily stealing matter from a companion star until it can’t handle its own mass.

    Whatever the reason, this star doesn’t fade quietly into the dark fabric of space and time. It goes kicking and screaming, exploding its stellar guts across the universe, leaving us with unparalleled brightness and a tsunami of particles and elements. It becomes a supernova. Here are ten facts about supernovae that will blow your mind.

    1. The oldest recorded supernova dates back almost 2000 years

    In 185 AD, Chinese astronomers noticed a bright light in the sky. Documenting their observations in the Book of Later Han, these ancient astronomers noted that it sparkled like a star, appeared to be half the size of a bamboo mat and did not travel through the sky like a comet. Over the next eight months this celestial visitor slowly faded from sight. They called it a “guest star.”

    Two millennia later, in the 1960s, scientists found hints of this mysterious visitor in the remnants of a supernova approximately 8000 light-years away. The supernova, SN 185, is the oldest known supernova recorded by humankind.

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    Combined X-ray image from Chandra and XMM-Newton of RCW 86. Low energy X-rays are in red, medium energies in green, and high energies in blue. RCW 86 is the probable remnant of SN 185.

    ESA XMM Newton
    ESA/XMM-Newton

    NASA Chandra Telescope
    NASA/Chandra

    2
    2. Many of the elements we’re made of come from supernovae [This is incorrect. Absolutely everything we are made of was released in a supernova.]

    Everything from the oxygen you’re breathing to the calcium in your bones, the iron in your blood and the silicon in your computer was brewed up in the heart of a star.

    As a supernova explodes, it unleashes a hurricane of nuclear reactions. These nuclear reactions produce many of the building blocks of the world around us. The lion’s share of elements between oxygen and iron comes from core-collapse supernovae, those massive stars that collapse under their own gravity. They share the responsibility of producing the universe’s iron with thermonuclear supernovae, white dwarves that steal mass from their binary companions. Scientists also believe supernovae are a key site for the production of most of the elements heavier than iron.

    2
    Two men in a rubber raft inspect the wall of photodetectors of the partly filled Super-Kamiokande neutrino detector.

    3. Supernovae are neutrino factories

    In a 10-second period, a core-collapse supernova will release a burst of more than 1058 neutrinos, ghostly particles that can travel undisturbed through almost everything in the universe.

    Outside of the core of a supernova, it would take a light-year of lead to stop a neutrino. But when a star explodes, the center can become so dense that even neutrinos take a little while to escape. When they do escape, neutrinos carry away 99 percent of the energy of the supernova.

    Scientists watch for that burst of neutrinos using an early warning system called SNEWS. SNEWS is a network of neutrino detectors across the world. Each detector is programmed to send a datagram to a central computer whenever it sees a burst of neutrinos. If more than two experiments observe a burst within 10 seconds, the computer issues an automatic alert to the astronomical community to look out for an exploding star.

    But you don’t have to be an expert astronomer to receive an alert. Anyone can sign up to be among the first to know that a star’s core has collapsed.

    CERN LHC Map
    CERN LHC Grand Tunnel
    CERN LHC particles
    LHC at CERN

    4. Supernovae are powerful particle accelerators

    Supernovae are natural space laboratories; they can accelerate particles to at least 1000 times the energy of particles in the Large Hadron Collider, the most powerful collider on Earth.

    The interaction between the blast of a supernova and the surrounding interstellar gas creates a magnetized region, called a shock. As particles move into the shock, they bounce around the magnetic field and get accelerated, much like a basketball being dribbled closer and closer to the ground. When they are released into space, some of these high-energy particles, called cosmic rays, eventually slam into our atmosphere, colliding with atoms and creating showers of secondary particles that rain down on our heads.

    5. Supernovae produce radioactivity

    In addition to forging elements and neutrinos, the nuclear reactions inside of supernovae also cook up radioactive isotopes. Some of this radioactivity emits light signals, such as gamma rays, that we can see in space.

    This radioactivity is part of what makes supernovae so bright. It also provides us with a way to determine if any supernovae have blown up near Earth. If a supernova occurred close enough to our planet, we’d be sprayed with some of these unstable nuclei. So when scientists come across layers of sediment with spikes of radioactive isotopes, they know to investigate whether what they’ve found was spit out by an exploding star.

    In 1998, physicists analyzed crusts from the bottom of the ocean and found layers with a surge of 60Fe, a rare radioactive isotope of iron that can be created in copious amounts inside supernovae. Using the rate at which 60Fe decays over time, they were able to calculate how long ago it landed on Earth. They determined that it was most likely dumped on our planet by a nearby supernova about 2.8 million years ago.

    6. A nearby supernova could cause a mass extinction

    If a supernova occurred close enough, it could be pretty bad news for our planet. Although we’re still not sure about all the ways being in the midst of an exploding star would affect us, we do know that supernovae emit truckloads of high-energy photons such as X-rays and gamma rays. The incoming radiation would strip our atmosphere of its ozone. All of the critters in our food chain from the bottom up would fry in the sun’s ultraviolet rays until there was nothing left on our planet but dirt and bones.

    Statistically speaking, a supernova in our own galaxy has been a long time coming.

    Supernovae occur in our galaxy at a rate of about one or two per century. Yet we haven’t seen a supernova in the Milky Way in around 400 years. The most recent nearby supernova was observed in 1987, and it wasn’t even in our galaxy. It was in a nearby satellite galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud [LMC].

    5
    LMC

    But death by supernova probably isn’t something you have to worry about in your lifetime, or your children’s or grandchildren’s or great-great-great-grandchildren’s lifetime. IK Pegasi, the closest candidate we have for a supernova, is 150 light-years away—too far to do any real damage to Earth.

    Even that 2.8-million-year-old supernova that ejected its radioactive insides into our oceans was at least 100 light-years from Earth, which was not close enough to cause a mass-extinction. The physicists deemed it a “near miss.”

    7. Supernovae light can echo through time

    Just as your voice echoes when its sound waves bounce off a surface and come back again, a supernova echoes in space when its light waves bounce off cosmic dust clouds and redirect themselves toward Earth.

    Because the echoed light takes a scenic route to our planet, this phenomenon opens a portal to the past, allowing scientists to look at and decode supernovae that occurred hundreds of years ago. A recent example of this is SN1572, or Tycho’s supernova, a supernova that occurred in 1572. This supernova shined brighter than Venus, was visible in daylight and took two years to dim from the sky.

    7
    Remnant of SN 1572 as seen in X-ray light from the Chandra X-ray Observatory

    In 2008, astronomers found light waves originating from the cosmic demolition site of the original star. They determined that they were seeing light echoes from Tycho’s supernova. Although the light was 20 billion times fainter than what astronomer Tycho Brahe observed in 1572, scientists were able to analyze its spectrum and classify the supernova as a thermonuclear supernova.

    More than four centuries after its explosion, light from this historical supernova is still arriving at Earth.

    5

    8. Supernovae were used to discover dark energy

    Because thermonuclear supernovae are so bright, and because their light brightens and dims in a predictable way, they can be used as lighthouses for cosmology.

    In 1998, scientists thought that cosmic expansion, initiated by the big bang, was likely slowing down over time. But supernova studies suggested that the expansion of the universe was actually speeding up.

    8
    According to the Big Bang model, the universe expanded from an extremely dense and hot state and continues to expand today.

    Scientists can measure the true brightness of supernovae by looking at the timescale over which they brighten and fade. By comparing how bright these supernovae appear with how bright they actually are, scientists are able to determine how far away they are.

    Scientists can also measure the increase in the wavelength of a supernova’s light as it moves farther and farther away from us. This is called the redshift.

    Comparing the redshift with the distances of supernovae allowed scientists to infer how the rate of expansion has changed over the history of the universe. Scientists believe that the culprit for this cosmic acceleration is something called dark energy.

    9. Supernovae occur at a rate of approximately 10 per second

    By the time you reach the end of this sentence, it is likely a star will have exploded somewhere in the universe.

    As scientists evolve better techniques to explore space, the number of supernovae they discover increases. Currently they find over a thousand supernovae per year.

    But when you look deep into the night sky at bright lights shining from billions of light-years away, you’re actually looking into the past. The supernovae that scientists are detecting stretch back to the very beginning of the universe. By adding up all of the supernovae they’ve observed, scientists can figure out the rate at which supernovae occur across the entire universe.

    Scientists estimate about 10 supernovae occur per second, exploding in space like popcorn in the microwave.

    10. We’re about to get much better at detecting far-away supernovae

    Even though we’ve been aware of these exploding stars for millennia, there’s still so much we don’t know about them. There are two known types of supernovae, but there are many different varieties that scientists are still learning about.

    Supernovae could result from the merger of two white dwarfs. Alternatively, the rotation of a star could create a black hole that accretes material and launches a jet through the star. Or the density of a star’s core could be so high that it starts creating electron-positron pairs, causing a chain reaction in the star.

    Right now, scientists are mapping the night sky with the Dark Energy Survey, or DES. Scientists can discover new supernova explosions by looking for changes in the images they take over time.

    Dark Energy Survey
    DECam
    CTIO Victor M Blanco 4m Telescope
    CTIO Victor M Blanco 4m Telescope interior
    DES, the DeCam built at FNAL, and the CTIO Victor M Blanco Telescope in Chile in which DECam is housed

    Another survey currently going on is the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae, or the ASAS-SN, which recently observed the most luminous supernova ever discovered.

    All Sky Automated Survey for Supernovas
    ASAS-SN telescope

    In 2019, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, or LSST, will revolutionize our understanding of supernovae. LSST is designed to collect more light and peer deeper into space than ever before. It will move rapidly across the sky and take more images in larger chunks than previous surveys. This will increase the number of supernovae we see by hundreds of thousands per year.

    LSST Exterior
    LSST Telescope
    LSST Camera
    LSST home and telescope to be biuilt in Chile

    Studying these astral bombs will expand our knowledge of space and bring us even closer to understanding not just our origin, but the cosmic reach of the universe.

    See the full article here.

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    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.


     
  • richardmitnick 10:10 am on August 4, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Supernovas   

    From SPACE.com: “3D Supernova Simulation Turns Back Clock on Star Explosions” 

    space-dot-com logo

    SPACE.com

    August 03, 2015
    Sarah Lewin

    1
    This visualization depicts a massive star about to collapse and explode into a supernova. Researchers found in the new simulation that the wrinkles that develop just before collapse are crucial to detonation. Credit: S. M. Couch

    Enormous stars collapse in ultramassive supernova explosions — now in 3D! For the first time ever, researchers have turned back the clock on a star’s final moments to simulate how wrinkles in its violent collapse trigger a vast explosion.

    As massive stars age, they build up more and more iron in their cores, which cannot be used by the star as fuel. Eventually, when the core gets big enough, it collapses and, sometimes, incites a huge explosion. Most simulations start with a star already on the brink of collapse, with the different layers inside the star in perfect concentric rings. But models with those simplified starting conditions stubbornly refuse to blow.

    “Almost all supernova simulations follow about 1 second of physical time,” said Sean Couch, a physicist and astronomer at Michigan State University and lead author of the new paper. “What we did that was different is, we wound the clock back 3 minutes. That’s really challenging; it’s never been done before. We then show this has an important and big impact on the likelihood for successful supernova explosions.”

    Such a feat was very technologically demanding, but it proved necessary because models starting right at the collapse just wouldn’t explode in a supernova, Couch said. Instead, the shock would peter out, and the collapsing star would become a black hole.

    “It’s the difference between an onion” — the old, simplified starting point — “and cabbage,” Couch told Space.com. “You slice cabbage, and there’s wrinkles on the inside. It’s still basically a sphere, but it’s not nearly as concentrically layered as the onion will be.”

    Those extra few moments, where the “onion” model had the chance to wrinkle into a “cabbage” more like a complex, real star before collapsing, seem to cause enough turbulence to push the system over the edge into a supernova.

    Just modeling those extra 3 minutes back in time was a huge technological challenge, Couch said — the simulation on the supercomputer took about one month to complete, and they could run it only once. Therefore, the researchers chose their star carefully: one about 12 million years old, and 15 times the mass of the sun, that they thought would likely go supernova.

    To extend their research, the scientists are modeling four types of stars they think might lead to supernovas, and they’re hoping to push the simulation even further back in time. Couch said it might be possible to understand and model the forces within a star, to go as far as an hour before the collapse. (“An epic challenge,” Couch called it.)

    The difficulty with modeling stars is the difference in timescales, Couch said — a star evolves over the course of millions of years, but the supernova mechanism is on a millisecond scale. Incredible levels of precision and complexity are needed to understand that millisecond.

    “We know that we’ve been working with unrealistic initial conditions; it’s just only come to light in the last couple of years that it matters,” Couch said. “What we’re learning now is that the details of these stars matter.”

    The research was detailed in the July 21 edition of The Astrophysical Journal.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 12:55 pm on June 4, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Supernovas,   

    From UC Berkeley: “Exiled stars explode far from home” 

    UC Berkeley

    UC Berkeley

    June 4, 2015
    Robert Sanders, Media Relations

    1
    Animated GIF contrasting the supernova as seen in 2009 by the CFHT and the sharper image obtained in 2013 by the Hubble Space Telescope. (Image by Melissa Graham, CFHT and HST)

    Sharp images obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope confirm that three supernovae discovered several years ago exploded in the dark emptiness of intergalactic space, having been flung from their home galaxies millions or billions of years earlier.

    NASA Hubble Telescope
    NASA/ESA Hubble

    Most supernovae are found inside galaxies containing hundreds of billions of stars, one of which might explode per century per galaxy.

    These lonely supernovae, however, were found between galaxies in three large clusters of several thousand galaxies each. The stars’ nearest neighbors were probably 300 light years away, nearly 100 times farther than our sun’s nearest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri, 4.24 light years distant.

    Such rare solitary supernovae provide an important clue to what exists in the vast empty spaces between galaxies, and can help astronomers understand how galaxy clusters formed and evolved throughout the history of the universe.

    The solitary worlds reminded study leader Melissa Graham, a University of California, Berkeley, postdoctoral fellow and avid sci-fi fan, of the fictional star Thrial, which, in the Iain Banks novel Against a Dark Background, lies a million light years from any other star. One of its inhabited planets, Golter, has a nearly starless night sky.

    Any planets around these intracluster stars – all old and compact stars that exploded in what are called Type Ia supernovae – were no doubt obliterated by the explosions, but they, like Golter, would have had a night sky depleted of bright stars, Graham said. The density of intracluster stars is about one-millionth what we see from Earth.

    “It would have been a fairly dark background indeed,” she said, “populated only by the occasional faint and fuzzy blobs of the nearest and brightest cluster galaxies.”

    Graham and her colleagues – David Sand of Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Dennis Zaritsky of the University of Arizona in Tucson and Chris Pritchet of the University of Victoria in British Columbia – will report their analysis of the three stars in a paper to be presented Friday, June 5, at a conference on supernovae at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Their paper has also been accepted by the Astrophysical Journal.

    Clusters of thousands of galaxies

    The new study confirms the discovery between 2008 and 2010 of three apparently hostless supernovae by the Multi-Epoch Nearby Cluster Survey using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope [CFHT} on Mauna Kea in Hawaii.

    Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope
    Canada France Hawaii Telescope Interior
    CFHT

    The CFHT was unable to rule out a faint galaxy hosting these supernovae. But the sensitivity and resolution of images from the Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys [ACS] are 10 times better and clearly show that the supernovae exploded in empty space, far from any galaxy. They thus belong to a population of solitary stars that exist in most if not all clusters of galaxies, Graham said

    NASA Hubble ACS
    ACS

    While stars and supernovae typically reside in galaxies, galaxies situated in massive clusters experience gravitational forces that wrench away about 15 percent of the stars, according to a recent survey. The clusters have so much mass, though, that the displaced stars remain gravitationally bound within the sparsely populated intracluster regions.

    2
    One of the four supernovae (top, 2009) may be part of a dwarf galaxy or globular cluster visible on the 2013 HST image (bottom). (Image by Melissa Graham, CFHT and HST)

    Once dispersed, these lonely stars are too faint to be seen individually unless they explode as supernovae. Graham and her colleagues are searching for bright supernovae in intracluster space as tracers to determine the population of unseen stars. Such information provides clues about the formation and evolution of large scale structures in the universe.

    “We have provided the best evidence yet that intracluster stars truly do explode as Type Ia supernovae,” Graham said, “and confirmed that hostless supernovae can be used to trace the population of intracluster stars, which is important for extending this technique to more distant clusters.”

    Graham and her colleagues also found that a fourth exploding star discovered by CFHT appears to be inside a red, round region that could be a small galaxy or a globular cluster. If the supernova is in fact part of a globular cluster, it marks the first time a supernova has been confirmed to explode inside these small, dense clusters of fewer than a million stars. All four supernovae were in galaxy clusters sitting about a billion light years from Earth.

    “Since there are far fewer stars in globular clusters, only a small fraction of the supernovae are expected to occur in globular clusters,” Graham said. “This might be the first confirmed case, and may indicate that the fraction of stars that explode as supernovae is higher in either low-mass galaxies or globular clusters.”

    Graham said that most theoretical models for Type Ia supernovae involve a binary star system, so the exploding stars would have had a companion throughout their lifetimes.

    “This is no love story, though,” she added. “The companion was either a lower-mass white dwarf that eventually got too close and was tragically fragmented into a ring that was cannibalized by the primary star, or a regular star from which the primary white dwarf star stole sips of gas from its outer layers. Either way, this transfer of material caused the primary to become unstably massive and explode as a Type Ia supernova.”

    Graham’s postdoctoral fellowship is supported by gifts from Gary and Cynthia Bengier.

    See the full article here.

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    Founded in the wake of the gold rush by leaders of the newly established 31st state, the University of California’s flagship campus at Berkeley has become one of the preeminent universities in the world. Its early guiding lights, charged with providing education (both “practical” and “classical”) for the state’s people, gradually established a distinguished faculty (with 22 Nobel laureates to date), a stellar research library, and more than 350 academic programs.

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  • richardmitnick 9:22 pm on May 22, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Supernovas   

    From New Scientist: “Supernova space bullets could have seeded Earth’s iron core” 

    NewScientist

    New Scientist

    20 May 2015
    Jacob Aron

    1
    Shooting stars (Image: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech; Optical: MPIA, Calar Alto, O. Krause et al)

    Supernova shoot-em-ups could be responsible for Earth’s iron core. An analysis suggests that certain stars fire off massive iron bullets when they die.

    Stars fuse the hydrogen and helium present in the early universe into heavier elements, like iron. When stars reach the end of their lives, they explode in supernovae, littering these elements throughout space where they can eventually form planets.

    A particular kind of supernova called a type Ia, the result of the explosion of a dense stellar corpse called a white dwarf star, seems to be responsible for most of the iron on Earth.

    These stars also play an important role in our understanding of distance in the universe. That’s because the white dwarfs only blow up when they reach a certain, fixed mass, so we can use the light of these explosions as a “standard candle” to tell how far away they are.

    But astronomers still haven’t figured out exactly what causes white dwarfs to hit this critical limit.

    “Most of our iron on Earth comes from supernovae of this kind,” says Noam Soker of the Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. “It is embarrassing that we still don’t know what brings these white dwarfs to explode.”

    Lumpy stars

    When a star goes supernova, it leaves behind a cloud of ejected material called a supernova remnant. This remnant should be spherical – but some have extra bumps that could offer a clue to the supernova’s origin.

    Now Soker and his colleague Danny Tsebrenko say that massive clumps of iron produced within a white dwarf in the process of going supernova could be punching through the remnant like bullets, creating these bumps. The iron bullets aren’t solid chunks of metal, but a more diffuse cloud of molecules.

    Some supernova remnants have two bumps on opposite sides, which the researchers call “ears”.

    The iron bullets form along the rotation axis of an exploding white dwarf, firing out at either end, says Soker. A white dwarf can only be spinning fast enough to allow this if it is the result of two smaller dwarfs merging, he adds.

    The bullets could also shed light on our origins. Soker and Tsebrenko estimate that these clouds of iron would be several times the mass of Jupiter. They would spread and could eventually seed dust clouds with iron that would go on to form stars and planets, providing an origin for Earth’s core, says Soker.

    Reference: arxiv.org/abs/1505.02034v1

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 8:51 am on May 22, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Supernovas   

    From ANU: “Supernova ignition surprises scientists” 

    ANU Australian National University Bloc

    Australian National University

    21 May 2015
    No Writer Credit

    1
    NEWS from the Australian Gemini Office! ANU astronomer Dr Brad Tucker and his team used the Kepler Space Telescope together with the Gemini 8m telescope to catch supernovae in the act.

    Gemini South telescope
    Gemini South Interior
    Gemini

    Photo: Supernova SN2012fr, just to the left of the centre of the galaxy, outshone the rest of the galaxy for several weeks: Credit Brad Tucker and Emma Kirby

    Scientists have captured the early death throes of supernovae for the first time and found that the universe’s benchmark explosions are much more varied than expected.

    The scientists used the Kepler space telescope to photograph three type 1a supernovae in the earliest stages of ignition.

    NASA Kepler Telescope
    NASA/Kepler

    They then tracked the explosions in detail to full brightness around three weeks later, and the subsequent decline over the next few months.

    They found the initial stages of a supernova explosion did not fit with the existing theories.

    “The stars all blow up uniquely. It doesn’t make sense,” said Dr Brad Tucker, from the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

    “It’s particularly weird for these supernovae because even though their initial shockwaves are very different, they end up doing the same thing.”

    Before this study, the earliest type 1a supernovae had been glimpsed was more than 2.5 hours after ignition, after which the explosions all followed an identical pattern.

    This led astronomers to theorise that supernovae, the brilliant explosions of dying stars, all occurred through an identical process.

    Astronomers had thought supernovae all happened when a dense star steadily sucked in material from a large nearby neighbour until it became so dense that carbon in the star’s core ignited.

    “Somewhat to our surprise the results suggest an alternative hypothesis, that a violent collision between two smallish white dwarf stars sets off the explosion,” said lead researcher Dr Robert Olling, from the University of Maryland in the United States.

    At the peak of their brightness, supernovae are brighter than the billions of stars in their galaxy. Because of their brightness, astronomers have been able to use them to calculate distances to distant galaxies.

    Measurements of distant supernovae led to the discovery that some unknown force, now called dark energy, is causing the accelerated expansion of the universe. Brian Schmidt from the ANU, Saul Perlmutter (Berkeley) and Adam Reiss (Johns Hopkins) were awarded the Nobel prize in 2011 for this discovery.

    Dr Tucker said the new results did not undermine the discovery of dark energy.

    “The accelerating universe will not now go away – they will not have to give back their Nobel prizes,” he said.

    “The new results will actually help us to better understand the physics of supernovae, and figure out what is this dark energy that is dominating the universe.”

    The findings are published in Nature.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    ANU Campus

    ANU is a world-leading university in Australia’s capital city, Canberra. Our location points to our unique history, ties to the Australian Government and special standing as a resource for the Australian people.

    Our focus on research as an asset, and an approach to education, ensures our graduates are in demand the world-over for their abilities to understand, and apply vision and creativity to addressing complex contemporary challenges.

     
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