Nasa, Supernova – Analysing data from NASA’s planet-hunter, the Kepler space telescope, astronomers have captured for the first time a brilliant flash of an exploding star’s shockwave or “shock breakout” in the optical wavelength or visible light.
The team led by Peter Garnavich, astrophysics professor at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, analysed light captured by Kepler every 30 minutes over a three-year period from 500 distant galaxies, searching some 50 trillion stars.
They were hunting for signs of massive stellar death explosions known as supernovae.
Using the information from the NASA’s planet hunter and with the use of the Kepler space telescope, the astronomers were able to capture the flash of shockwave in the visible light.
A team of expert which was led by the Peter Garnavich, who is astrophysics professor at University of the Notre Dame in the Indiana, did different analysis for more than 3 years after almost every thirty minutes from almost 500 galaxies.
The reason behind the research was to hunt some signs of big stellar death explosions which are known as the supernova. On March 22nd,
Shock breakout stays for only 20 minutes, which is not much for the astronomers for to study note it for a long time.
Garnavich said “In order to see something that happens on timescales of minutes, like a shock breakout, you want to have a camera continuously monitoring the sky”
One 22nd march, the astronomers were able to document the moments of the supernova while capturing shockwave which was creating by collapsing core.
Brad Tucker who is an astronomer at Australian National University said that “It’s like the shockwave from a nuclear bomb, only much bigger, and no one gets hurt,”
When an old star die and runs short on fuel, its core collapse in and starts exploding, two stellar cores explodes.
For a long time, scientists spent a long time studying supernovas and its brightness. The brightness is high enough to be noticed from faraway galaxies, which makes them very easy to point. However, the understanding of supernova so is limited.
The recent images revealed explain the super nova and its early stages for the first time. The process forges some of the universe’s heavier elements, which includes sliver, argon, uranium, nickel and so on.
According to the astronomers, they didn’t see the shockwave in larger companion. Tucker said “The star was so large that the shockwave did not travel all the way to the surface,”
The researcher hope that they will be able to conduct further analysis on the basis of the recent observation which will give them more information about supernova and its early stages.
Due to explosion of the ageing start, a shockwave has been generated, as observed by the team of the astronomers.
The co-other from Australian National University, Brad Tucker, said that discovery will help the scientist in order to understand what is life cycle of the stars.
He stated “This is the first time we’ve seen this in the normal visible colours, and we now know it happens,”
Using Kepler Space Telescope the scientists observed the old exploding stars and their earliest moments. The shockwave was spotted around the two stars. The radius was more than 270 times that of sun.
As the fuel started running out the star began to collapse and compress on the central core.
Dr Tucker explained: “It’s like packing in dirt; you keep pressing it till it’s so dense you can’t get it in anymore, and that’s when you create a neutron star”
Shockwave which was the reason core collapsed seemed like a flash or quick brightening. Supernova also causes brightening, however, this lightening to do not stay for a long period of time. As the shockwave stays for few hours or maximum few days, it is a great challenge when it comes to catching one.
Scientists said witnessing a supernova explosion as it began had given them a rare insight into how these stellar explosions have helped to shape the universe.
Dr Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist at the Australian National University, said: ‘We are really probing the process of blowing up.
‘Supernovae made the heavy elements we need to survive, such as iron, zinc and iodine, so we are really learning about how we are created.’
The international team of astronomers spotted the shock breakout using Nasa’s Kepler space Telescope that has been continuously searching the sky for distant planets.
As part of its mission it is also watching more than 500 distant galaxies and in 2011, two massive stars, called red supergiants, exploded in its field of view.
The first, called KSN 2011a, is nearly 300 times the size of our sun and 700 million light years away. The second, known as KSN 2011d, is 500 times the size of our sun and 1.2 billion light years away.
Professor Peter Garnavich, an astrophysicist at the University of Notre Dame, in Paris, who led the research team, said: ‘To put their size into perspective, Earth’s orbit about our sun would fit comfortably within these colossal stars.’
For the first time, a supernova shockwave has been observed in the optical wavelength or visible light as it reaches the surface of the star.
This early flash of light is called a “shock breakout”.
The explosive death of this star, called KSN 2011d, as it reaches its maximum brightness takes 14 days.
The shock breakout itself lasts only about 20 minutes, so catching the flash of energy is an investigative milestone for astronomers.
In 2011, two of these massive stars, called red supergiants, exploded while in Kepler’s view.
The first behemoth, KSN 2011a, is nearly 300 times the size of our sun and a mere 700 million light years from Earth.
The second, KSN 2011d, is roughly 500 times the size of our sun and around 1.2 billion light years away.
“To put their size into perspective, Earth’s orbit about our sun would fit comfortably within these colossal stars,” said Garnavich.
The “shock breakout” itself lasts only about 20 minutes, so catching the flash of energy is an investigative milestone for astronomers.
“In order to see something that happens on timescales of minutes, like a shock breakout, you want to have a camera continuously monitoring the sky,” Garnavich added.
Supernovae like these – known as Type II – begin when the internal furnace of a star runs out of nuclear fuel causing its core to collapse as gravity takes over.
The two supernovae matched up well with mathematical models of Type II explosions reinforcing existing theories. But they also revealed what could turn out to be an unexpected variety in the individual details of these cataclysmic stellar events.
Understanding the physics of these violent events allows scientists to better understand how the seeds of chemical complexity and life itself have been scattered in space and time in our Milky Way galaxy
“All heavy elements in the universe come from supernova explosions. For example, all the silver, nickel, and copper in the earth and even in our bodies came from the explosive death throes of stars,” explained Steve Howell, project scientist for NASA’s Kepler and K2 missions.
The research paper reporting this discovery has been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal.