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The Kepler Space Telescope’s Supernova Surprise
Supernovae are stellar explosions that herald the death of stars, and can be so brilliant that they can briefly dazzle their entire host galaxy. A special class of supernovae, the so-called Type Iaproved to be a critical tool in an important discovery dark energy–a mysterious force that causes the universe to accelerate in its expansion and constitutes the lion’s share of the material-energy component of the Cosmos. However, the process that it runs Type Ia supernova fires have remained a puzzle of cosmic proportions. However, astronomers at the January 2014 American Astronomical Society (AAS) Winter Meeting, held outside Washington DC in National Harbor, Maryland, announced that NASA’s ill-fated but still very successful planet hunt Kepler space telescope managed to make a surprising discovery of two Type Ia supernova explosions that shed fascinating light on their mysterious origins.
The Kepler mission was the first space telescope launched capable of detecting Earth-sized exoplanets in our galactic neighborhood located within their stars. habitable zones. More than 75% of the 3,500 exoplanet candidates they spotted Kepler sporting sizes from Earth to Neptune.
The habitable zone around the star is the “just right” region of Goldilocks where water in its life-loving liquid state can exist on an orbiting world. Where liquid water exists, life as we know it can evolve! That doesn’t mean life definitely exists on such a happy water world – but it does mean the possibility is there.
Keplerlaunched on March 7, 2009 from Cape Canaveral, Florida, its primary mission was to stare at more than 100,000 stars and look for small dips in their brightness caused by transiting planets. Keplera special spacecraft, was designed to precisely measure these tiny changes in the light of these distant stars in search of alien planets causing subtle dips in their brilliant, fiery light.
For all four years of his mission, Kepler he stared tirelessly at a single patch of sky, collecting brightness measurements every half hour. Sometimes the telescope accidentally recorded small dips in the star’s brightness, indicating that planets had formed transit–that is, he passed before the dazzling face of the parent star. Unfortunately, Kepler the mission ended prematurely when a piece of its equipment failed in May 2013.
At the end of 2009, Dr. Robert Olling, an astronomer from the University of Maryland in College Park, think about what Kepler he could do that if he also turned and stared at the galaxies. Dr. Olling, who studies supernovae and black holes, realized that like stars, galaxies twinkle with relatively consistent brightnesses. However, in the event of an unusual event – such as the feeding frenzy of a voracious black hole or the death explosion of a giant star – the galaxy’s brightness could be greatly enhanced. After Dr. Olling and two of his colleagues, Drs. Richard Mushotsky and Dr. Edward Shaya, also from the University of Maryland, submitted the proposal Kepler the telescope began to stare at the 400 galaxies dancing around in its field of view.
What A Blast!
Most supernovae explode when a solitary star explodes and “dies”. The progenitor of a supernova is often a heavy star with a massive core of about 1.4 solar masses. That’s what it’s called Chandrasekhar limit. Smaller, less massive stars—like our own Sun—usually don’t perish in the blinding force of explosive supernova explosions like their more massive stellar relatives. Small stars like our Sun go much more “gently” into that good night and perish in relative peace – and great beauty. Our Sun is very ordinary and rather tiny (by stellar standards) at this point, main sequence (hydrogen burning) star. It appears in our daytime sky as a large, enchanting, brilliantly sparkling golden orb. There are eight major planets, a host of bewitching moons, and a rich assortment of other smaller bodies in orbit around our Sun, which happily resides on the far outskirts of the great, majestic, barred spiral galaxy, our Milky Way. Our Sun will not live forever. Like all stars, it is doomed at some point – but not for very long in the case of our Sun. A star with the relatively small mass of our Sun can “live” for about 10 billion years, blissfully fusing its core’s hydrogen into heavier atomic elements, in a process called stellar nucleosynthesis.
However, our Sun is not a bouncing baby star right now. In fact, he is a middle-aged star. However, it is experiencing an active middle age and is still exuberant enough to merrily fuse hydrogen in its core for another 5 billion years or so. Our Sun is currently about 4.56 billion years old—not young by stellar standards, but not quite old either.
When stars like our Sun have finally managed to fuse most of their hydrogen stores, they begin to grow into glowing, bloated red giant stars. Now, the older Sun-like star carries a heart of helium, surrounded by an envelope in which hydrogen is still being converted to helium. The shell swells outward, and the star’s dying heart continues to enlarge as the star ages. Then the helium heart itself begins to shrink under its own weight, growing hotter and hotter until it finally burns so fervently at its center that the helium fuses into an even heavier atomic element. carbon. A small Sun-like star ends up with a tiny, extremely hot heart that spews out more energy than it did long ago when it was younger. main sequence star. The outer layers of an elderly, dying star swelled to monstrous proportions. In our own solar system, when our Sun finally disappeared red giantit will cannibalize some of its own planetary children – first Mercury, then Venus – and then (perhaps) Earth. The temperature on the burning surface is horrible red giant it will be significantly cooler than when our Sun was still charming, young, and bright main sequence little, little star!
The relatively gentle death of small stars like our Sun is characterized by the gentle blowing away of their outer layers of luminous, multi-colored gas, and these objects are so stunningly beautiful that they are often called the “butterflies of the cosmos.” ” from enchanted astronomers.
Our Sun will die this way – with relative peace and great beauty. This is because our Sun is a loner. The corpse of the Sun will be a small, dense stellar remnant called a white dwarfand his shroud will be a glittering cosmic “butterfly”.
However, something quite different happens when a small solar-type star resides in a binary system with another sister star. A sister star rudely intrudes on its sibling’s precious, peaceful solitude, and in this case, the dying little star goes supernova – just like its more massive stellar relative when they reach the end of the star’s path.
Kepler the data revealed at least five – and possibly eight – supernovae over the course of two years. At least two of them have been identified as Type Iaand their light was captured in greater temporal detail than ever before. This new information adds credibility to the theory Type Ia supernovae are the result of the merger of two white dwarfs— extremely dense relics of Earth-sized Sun-like stars. This new discovery challenges an older, long-standing model Type Ia supernovae are the result of loneliness white dwarf imbibing material from the star’s friend’s sister – and the victim. A companion star can be either a main sequence Sun-like star or old man, bloated red giant
This new information was a surprising discovery Kepler–whose main purpose was to hunt for alien planets by staring at stars in our galactic neighborhood. Distant galaxies also danced within the space telescope’s field of view, and its success in collecting data every half hour, along with its sensitivity to very small changes in brightness, made it ideal for recording the rise and fall of light emitted during supernova explosions. .
Dr. Olling was lucky enough to spot the pair Type Ia supernovae after a two-year study of about 400 galaxies in Kepler’s field. He announced his discovery on January 8, 2014 at the AAS Winter Meeting. “As a technical tour de force, it’s really great to use Kepler for more than intended,” Dr. told the press at the AAS meeting. Robert P. Kirshner. Dr. Kirshner is an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
In certain respects the data collected is rudimentary. That’s because they only consist of brightness measurements, so astronomers can’t calculate details like the two structures of a duo Type Ia explosions and the chemical composition of what they violently threw into space. Kepler it also sent data back to Earth only once every three months. Because supernovae dim after a few weeks of brightness, astronomers have been unable to point other telescopes at supernovae that Kepler glimpsed to gain a more perfect observation.
Type Ia explosions are the most commonly observed form of supernovae. Kepler’s the data provided a valuable clue to what triggers these starbursts. The Kepler the data help astronomers distinguish between two competing supernova scenarios. Both require that a white dwarf it accumulates stellar matter from the companion until the pressure ignites a rapid thermonuclear explosion. However, in the companion model, the expanding shell of material from white dwarf would collide with a sister star. This would eject additional heat and light – manifesting as a bump in the first days of supernova brightening. In the data of Dr. Olling, however, could not see any such bump.
That basically rules it out red giant companions, explained Dr. Olling at the AAS meeting because these big, bloated, elderly stars would make a nice big bump. However, the data may still be compatible with a model of smaller, more Sun-like companions, noted Dr. Daniel Kassen for press January 14, 2014. Dr. Kassen is an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley, and collaborated on the survey with Dr. Olling. Not only would these relatively small stars cause a smaller bump, but the bump could be missed entirely depending on the observer’s angle of view, Dr. continued. Kassen in explaining.
For a long time, the model was Fr Type Ia supernovae caused by fusion white dwarfs was not particularly popular among astronomers because the final stages of the merger were believed to occur very slowly – over thousands of years. Such gradual accretion of material would more likely result in the formation of a neutron star. In 2010, however, simulations suggested that such fusions could occur much faster—within seconds or minutes, and that would allow for the dramatic, sudden change in pressure that would trigger such an explosion.
However, there may be some problems with the merger scenario. Dr. Craig Wheeler commented in the January 14, 2014 issue Nature news that fusion simulations often show highly asymmetric explosions – yet observations so far appear to be more spherical. Dr. Wheeler is a supernova theorist at the University of Texas at Austin.
Dr. Olling believes it is important to make simultaneous observations with ground-based telescopes. This is because Kepler it can only record brightness and cannot separate light into spectra. However, to do this, Kepler must be directed in the opposite direction. Dr. Olling hopes so Kepler the team will allow it when NASA reveals its future plans for the crippled spacecraft during the summer of 2014.
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