Astronomers traced the timeline of a star explosion in a nearby galaxy using data from three NASA telescopes.
When a massive star reaches the end of its life, it explodes in a bright burst of light known as a supernova. These stellar explosions leave behind the colorful remnants of material ejected by the violent explosion.
One such supernova remnant, called SNR 0519-69.0 (short for SNR 0519), is the remnant of a white dwarf explosion several hundred years ago from our perspective here on Earth. It is located 160,000 light-years from Earth in a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way known as the Large Magellanic Cloud.
Related: Supernova Photos: Gorgeous Images of Stellar Explosions
(Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/GSFC/BJ Williams et al.; optical: NASA/ESA/STScI)
Using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope and the recently retired Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers were able to roughly determine how long ago the star at SNR 0519 exploded and what its space environment was like at the time, the statement said. . (will open in a new tab) from the Chandra X-ray Observatory.
“These data give scientists the opportunity to rewind the movie of stellar evolution that has played out since then and figure out when it started,” Chandra team members wrote in a statement.
SNR 0519, classified as a Type Ia supernova, is the result of a white dwarf reaching critical mass by pulling matter from a companion star or merging with another white dwarf. Astronomers have measured the speed of matter in the explosion’s blast wave by comparing Hubble images taken in 2010, 2011 and 2020, which suggest light from the explosion reached Earth about 670 years ago, traveling at 5.5 million miles per hour (9 million kilometers per hour).
However, data from Chandra and Spitzer suggest that matter in the blast wave likely slowed down after colliding with dense clouds of surrounding gas. If this is true, then the initial explosion occurred as recently as 670 years ago. Further observations from Hubble will help determine exactly when the star exploded, according to the statement.
Using data from three telescopes, astronomers were able to create a composite image of SNR 0519, which NASA released on September 12. The Chandra data captures X-rays from SNR 0519 at low, medium, and high energies, shown in green, blue. and purple, respectively.
The Hubble optical data shows the perimeter of the remnant in red, and the surrounding stars in white. According to the statement, the brightest areas in the X-ray data represent the slowest moving material, while the areas without X-rays are associated with faster moving material.
Their findings were published in August. eighteen (will open in a new tab) in the Astrophysical Journal.
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