When a star releases as much energy in a few days as our sun in billions of years, you know it will not remain visible for long.
Like intergalactic paparazzi, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope captured the fast, fading celebrity status of a supernova, a detonation of a star. Hubble snapshots are collected in a narrative film of the titanic star explosion that disappears into oblivion in the spiral galaxy NGC 2525, which is 70 million light-years away.
Hubble began observing SN 2018gv in February 2018, after the supernova was first discovered by amateur astronomer Koichi Itagaki a few weeks earlier in mid-January. Hubble astronomers used the supernova as part of a program to accurately measure the rate of expansion of the universe – a key value in understanding the physical basis of the cosmos. The supernova acts as a mile record maker to measure galaxy distances, a fundamental value needed to measure the expansion of space.
In the time-lapse sequence, which spans almost a year, the supernova first appears as a flaming star located on the outer edge of galaxies. It initially exceeds the brightest stars in the galaxy before fading out of sight.
“No terrestrial fireworks can compete with this supernova, captured in its fading glory by the Hubble Space Telescope,” said Nobel laureate Adam Riess of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, head of the High-z Supernova search team. and the State Equation Supernovae H0 (SH0ES) team for measuring the rate of expansion of the universe.
The type of supernova seen in this sequence originates from a burnt-out star – a white dwarf located in a dense binary system – that accretes material from its accompanying star. When the white dwarf reaches a critical mass, its nucleus becomes hot enough to ignite nuclear fusion and transform it into a giant atomic bomb. This thermonuclear race process tears the dwarf apart. The abundance is short-lived when the fireball disappears.
Since supernovae of this type all peak with the same brightness, they are known as “standard lights” that act as cosmic measuring tapes. By knowing the actual brightness of supernovae and observing its brightness in the sky, astronomers can calculate the distance to their host galaxies. This allows astronomers to measure the rate of expansion of the universe. Over the past 30 years, Hubble has helped dramatically improve the precision of the universe’s rate of expansion.
Image: Hubble captures the supernova host galaxy
Provided by ESA / Hubble Information Center
Citation: Hubble watches exploding star disappears in oblivion (2020, October 1) retrieved October 1, 2020 from https://phys.org/news/2020-10-hubble-star-oblivion.html
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