Photo: Death of this doomed star caught in real time by Hubble Space Telescope
- The doomed star's death was caught by Hubble Space Telescope and it is being dubbed as the Rosetta Stone of Supernovae, NASA revealed.
Stars die. That is written in the stars, so to speak. But since the time spans are so immense, it is virtually impossible to keep track. However, this is where the Hubble Space Telescope comes in. And what it has spotted can be a virtual Rosetta Stone of dying stars or supernovae.
Hubble Telescope found a star in the early days of its demise and this data will provide information to researchers that can be applied to other stars that are in the process of dying. For humans, it can act as an early warning system. The star under observation, in the supernova stage, is called SN 2020fqv, which is located about 60 million light-years away in the constellation Virgo, NASA said. The coverage of the demise of the star was so comprehensive that a huge amount of data has been generated that will come in handy to chart the timelines concerned and more.
What is the Rosetta Stone?
It is a stone tablet found in 1799 in Egypt and it has helped to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics that were then totally untranslatable - it is a decoder as it is written in three scripts - ancient Greek and 2 Egyptian ones. Since ancient Greek was well known, it allowed the Egyptian scripts to be decoded. It goes as far back as 196 B.C. It was found by French General Napoleon's soldiers, but is now in the British Museum.
The astronomers are not using the term, 'Rosetta Stone of supernovae' lightly. It was one of the most importance finds and helped to improve the knowledge about that era tremendously.
Watching supernova in real time
"We used to talk about supernova work like we were crime scene investigators, where we would show up after the fact and try to figure out what happened to that star," explained Ryan Foley of the University of California, Santa Cruz, the leader of the team that made this discovery. "This is a different situation, because we really know what's going on and we actually see the death in real time."
"We rarely get to examine this very close-in circumstellar material since it is only visible for a very short time, and we usually don't start observing a supernova until at least a few days after the explosion," explained Samaporn Tinyanont, lead author on the study's paper published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. "For this supernova, we were able to make ultra-rapid observations with Hubble, giving unprecedented coverage of the region right next to the star that exploded."
What was the result?
As was the case with the original Rosetta Stone, in this supernova case, scientists used three different methods to determine the mass of the exploding star - comparing the properties and the evolution of the supernova with theoretical models, using information from a 1997 archival Hubble image of the star to rule out higher-mass stars and using observations to directly measure the amount of oxygen in the supernova, NASA explained.
The results showed that it was around 14 to 15 times the mass of the Sun. Determining the mass of the star that explodes in a supernova will further reveal how massive stars live and eventually, die.
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