Approximately 100 million light-years away from our planet, a unique supernova is exploding.
The exploding star, dubbed supernova LSQ14fmg was the distant object captured by an international research team. The study helped reveal the origins of the group of supernovae the star belongs to. Here is what you need to know.
Rare Supernova Explosion Captured and Examined
The recently captured supernova’s characteristics are quite intriguing. It gets brighter, but extremely slowly, and it is also one of the brightest explosions in its group – unlike any other. The exploding star is known as a Type Ia supernova, part of the “super-Chandrasekhar” category.
Type Ia supernovae were essential tools for discovering dark energy, which is the title given to the unknown energy that produces the current accelerated expansion of the Universe. Despite their significance, astronomers knew almost nothing about the origins of these supernova explosions. They only know that they are the thermonuclear explosions of white dwarf stars.
However, the research team knew that the light from a Type Ia supernova increases and drops in a few days, powered by the radioactive decay of nickel made in the explosion. A supernova that falls under such a category would get brighter as the nickel becomes more visible, then fainter as the supernova cools. The nickel decays to iron and cobalt.
The team collected data using telescopes in Spain and Chile and spotted how the supernova was hitting some material surround it. Such a thing caused more light to be discharged along with the light from the decaying nickel.
Why is This Supernova Unique
The researchers also found proof of carbon monoxide. Those observations led to a conclusion: the supernova was exploding inside what had been a massive asymptotic branch (AGB) star on the way to shifting into a planetary nebula.
“These supernovae can be particularly troublesome because they can mix into the sample of normal supernovae used to study dark energy,” detailed Eric Hsiao, an assistant professor of physics at Florida State University.
The team theorized that the explosion was influenced by the merger of the AGB star’s core and another white dwarf star orbiting within it. The middle star was losing a lot of mass through a stellar wind before the mass loss has changed and produced a ring of matter surrounding the star. Shortly after the supernova exploded, it triggered a ring of material sometimes seen in planetary nebulae and generated the extra light, and the slow brightening spotted.
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