Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Supernova progenitor found? New research identifies star system that may explode

Date:
August 3, 2012
Source:
Royal Astronomical Society (RAS)
Summary:
Type Ia supernovae are violent stellar explosions. Observations of their brightness are used to determine distances in the universe and have shown scientists that the cosmos is expanding at an accelerating rate. But there is still too little known about the specifics of the processes by which these supernovae form. New research identifies a star system, prior to explosion, which will possibly become a type Ia supernova.

A composite X-ray / optical / infrared image of the remnant of Tycho’s star, a type Ia supernova seen in 1572.
Credit: NASA / CXC / SAO / JPL-Caltech / MPIA / Calar Alto / O. Krause et al.

Type Ia supernovae are violent stellar explosions. Observations of their brightness are used to determine distances in the universe and have shown scientists that the cosmos is expanding at an accelerating rate. But there is still too little known about the specifics of the processes by which these supernovae form. New research, led by Stella Kafka of the Carnegie Institution for Science in the United States, identifies a star system, prior to explosion, which will possibly become a type Ia supernova.

Related Articles


The work will appear in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The widely accepted theory is that type Ia supernovae are thermonuclear explosions of a white dwarf star that's part of a binary system -- two stars that are physically close and orbit around a common centre of mass. The white dwarf has mass gradually donated to it by its companion. When the white dwarf mass eventually reaches 1.4 times that of the sun, it explodes to produce a type Ia supernova. The crucial questions are: What is the nature of the donor star and how does this white dwarf increase its mass. Also, how would that process affect the properties of the explosion?

With these questions in mind, scientists have been searching for candidate systems that could become type Ia supernovae. There are thousands of possibilities in the candidate pool, none of which have yet been observed to produce an explosion. Recent studies, some of which involved scientists at Carnegie observatories, have identified sodium gas associated with type Ia supernovae. This gas might be ejected from the binary's donor star and linger around the system to be detected after the white dwarf explodes. This provides a clue to the progenitor. Even so, Kafka still compared the search to "looking for a needle in a stellar haystack."

Using data from the DuPont telescope of the Las Campanas observatory in Chile, Kafka and her team -- Kent Honeycutt of Indiana University and Bob Williams of the Space Telescope Science Institute -- looked at these gas signatures and were able to identify a binary star called QU Carinae as a possible supernova progenitor. It contains a white dwarf, which is accumulating mass from a giant star, and sodium has been detected around the system.

This star belongs to a small category of binaries that are very bright and in which the white dwarf accretes material from its companion at very high rates. Sodium should be produced in the atmosphere of the mass-donor giant star, and it can be ejected from the system via a stellar wind. If the white dwarf of this binary explodes into a supernova, the sodium would be detected with the same sort of signature as those found in other type Ia supernovae.

"We are really excited to have identified such a system," Kafka said. "Understanding these systems, the nature of the two stars, the manner in which mass is exchanged, and their long-term evolution will give us a comprehensive picture on how binaries can create one of the most important explosions in the universe."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. Kafka, K. Honeycutt, B. Williams. QU Carinae: Supernova Ia in the making? Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 2012; (in press) [link]

Cite This Page:

Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). "Supernova progenitor found? New research identifies star system that may explode." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 August 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120803103050.htm>.
Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). (2012, August 3). Supernova progenitor found? New research identifies star system that may explode. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120803103050.htm
Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). "Supernova progenitor found? New research identifies star system that may explode." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120803103050.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth

Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth

Newsy (Nov. 27, 2014) An invisible barrier is keeping dangerous super fast electrons from interfering with our atmosphere, but scientists aren't entirely sure how. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA's First 3-D Printer In Space Creates Its First Object

NASA's First 3-D Printer In Space Creates Its First Object

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) The International Space Station is now using a proof-of-concept 3D printer to test additive printing in a weightless, isolated environment. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Feast Your Eyes: Lamb Chop Sent Into Space from UK

Feast Your Eyes: Lamb Chop Sent Into Space from UK

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 25, 2014) Take a stab at this -- stunt video shows a lamb chop's journey from an east London restaurant over 30 kilometers into space. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Soyuz Spacecraft Docks With International Space Station: NASA

Soyuz Spacecraft Docks With International Space Station: NASA

AFP (Nov. 24, 2014) A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying Italy's first female astronaut safely docks with the International Space Station, according to NASA. Duration: 00:40 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins