Massive explosion leads to “real-time” Supernova observation

Nate Swanner - May 22, 2014
Massive explosion leads to “real-time” Supernova observation

Scientists have wondered for a long time just what causes a supernova. A new observation shows a massive star exploding, leading to the birth of a supernova. Scientists now believe they can study the energy field in real time, and may even be able to properly identify where and what type of sueprnova will occur.

A Wolf-Rayet star, which is about 20-times the mass of our sun and roughly five times as hot, exploded in deep space recently. Using the Palomar Transient Factory sky survey (iPTF) along with instruments from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a team was able to view the supernova just after it burst onto the scene. Using telescopes, they observed the supernova up to 15 hours after it self-destructed, which allowed them to identify the materials it was made up of. From there, they deduced a Wolf-Rayet star was the cause.

"This is the smoking gun. For the first time, we can directly point to an observation and say that this type of Wolf-Rayet star leads to this kind of Type IIb supernova. This discovery was totally shocking, it opens up a whole new research area for us.” Said Peter Nugent, the head of the Berkeley Lab Computational Cosmology Center (C3). By identifying what type of energy made up the Supernova, and what makes up a star like the Wolf-Rayet, scientists can now identify where supernovae may occur, and how large or small they could be.

Prof. Avishay Gal-Yam of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, who observed the supernova just after creation, said “newly developed observational capabilities now enable us to study exploding stars in ways we could only dream of before. We are moving towards real-time studies of supernovae.”

Source: Red Orbit

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