Scientists have found evidence of a rare, gigantic stellar explosion dating to the earliest days of the universe – less than a billion years later Big bang.
Known as a “magneto-rotating hypernova”, this ancient explosion would have been about 10 times brighter and more energetic than a typical supernova (the violent death that awaits most stars in the universe, including the earth‘s sun) and left a strange stew of elements that helped nourish the next generation of stars.
Stars that go as such must be massive (dozens of times the size of the sun), rotate rapidly, and contain a powerful magnetic fieldaccording to a study published July 7 in the journal Nature. When a honkin star like this dies, it goes off with an enormously powerful blow ̵
“It’s an explosive death for the star, [and] no one has ever found this phenomenon before, ”Yong said.
Now Yong and his colleagues have found a distant star on the outskirts of The Milky Way containing a bizarre chemical cocktail that can only be explained by this elusive type of explosion, the study authors wrote. The star called SMSS J200322.54-114203.3 (but let’s call it J2 for short) and is around 7,500 light years from the sun in the halo of the Milky Way, formed for approx. 13 billion years ago, or less than 800 million years after the birth of the universe, according to scientists. Stars like these are the oldest that still exist.
In their new study, the scientists carefully analyzed the star’s chemical composition based on the wavelengths of light it emits using special instruments at the Giant Magellan Telescope in the Atacama Desert, Chile. They found that unlike most other known stars dating to this early era, J2 contains extremely low amounts. iron, while boasting unusually large amounts of heavier elements such as zinc, uranium and europium.
Mergers between neutron stars (collapsed shells of giant stars that pack a sun’s value of mass into an area the size of a city) may explain the presence of these heavier elements in similar stars from the early universe – but scientists said J2 contains so many “extras” “heavy elements that even the fusion theory of the neutron star does not fit.
The only explanation for all the extra heavy elements is an extra huge explosion – a hypernova amplified by rapid rotation and a strong magnetic field, according to the authors.
“We now find observational evidence for the first time that directly indicates that there was another form of hypernova that produced all stable elements in the periodic table at once – a nuclear collapse explosion of a fast-spinning, highly magnetized massive star,” study co-author Chiaki Kobayashi from the University of Hertfordshire in the UK said in the statement. “That’s the only thing that explains the results.”
This discovery is more than a sparkling spectacle; such an incredible explosion must have taken place in the earliest stages of galaxy formation to result in the birth of J2. This fact suggests that hypernovae may have been an important method of star formation in the early universe, the study authors concluded. Detection of similar old, strangely compound stars is necessary to elaborate on these results.
Originally published on WordsSideKick.com.