Astronomers turn back the clock to determine the timeline of a starburst

Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/GSFC/BJ Williams et al. ; Optical: NASA/ESA/STScI

While astronomers have seen debris from dozens of exploding stars in the Milky Way and nearby galaxies, it is often difficult to determine the timeline of the star’s death. By studying the astonishing remnants of a supernova in a neighboring galaxy using NASA telescopes, a team of astronomers has found enough evidence to help turn back the clock.

The Supernova A residue called SNR 0519-69.0 (abbreviated SNR 0519) is debris from an explosion white dwarf star. After reaching critical mass, either by pulling matter from a companion star or merging with another white dwarf, the star underwent a thermonuclear explosion and was destroyed. Scientists use this type of supernova, called Type Ia, for a wide range of scientific studies ranging from studies to thermonuclear explosions To measure distances to galaxies over billions of light years.

SNR 0519 is located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small galaxy 160,000 light-years from Earth. This composite image shows X-ray data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and optical data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. X-rays from SNR 0519 at low, medium, and high energies are shown in green, blue, and purple, respectively, with some of these colors overlapping to appear white. Optical data shows the contour of the remnant in red and the stars around the remnant in white.

Credit: Chandra X-ray Center/NASA

The astronomers combined data from Chandra and Hubble with data from NASA’s retired Spitzer Space Telescope to determine how long the star has exploded at SNR 0519 and learn about the environment in which the supernova occurred. This data provides scientists with an opportunity to “relive” the movie of stellar evolution that has occurred since then and find out when it began.

The researchers compared Hubble images from 2010, 2011 and 2020 to measure the velocities of material in the blast wave from the blast, which range from about 3.8 million to 5.5 million miles (9 million kilometers) per hour. If the speed is near the high end of those estimated speeds, astronomers have determined that the light from the explosion would have reached Earth about 670 years ago, or during the Hundred Years’ War between England and France and at the height of the Ming dynasty in China. .

However, it is possible that the material has slowed down since the initial eruption and that the eruption occurred as recently as 670 years ago. Chandra and Spitzer data provide evidence that this is the case. The astronomers found that the brightest X-ray regions of the remnant are where the slower-moving material is, and no X-ray emission correlates with the faster-moving material.

These results indicate that some of the blast wave hit the dense gas around the remnant, causing it to slow down as it moved. Astronomers may use additional observations with Hubble to more accurately determine the star’s demise time.

A paper describing these findings was published in the August issue of Astrophysical JournalPreliminary printing is available online.

Image: Hubble captures the torn remains of a cosmic explosion

more information:
Evidence for a dense and heterogeneous interstellar medium in Type Ia SNR 0519-69.0, arXiv: 2207.08724v1 [astro-ph.GA]

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