Stellar thief is the surviving companion to a supernovaApril 26, 2018
Seventeen years ago, astronomers witnessed a supernova go off 40 million light-years away in the galaxy called NGC 7424, located in the southern constellation Grus, the Crane. Now, in the fading afterglow of that explosion, NASA's Hubble has captured the first image of a surviving companion to a supernova. This picture is the most compelling evidence that some supernovas originate in double-star systems.
"We know that the majority of massive stars are in binary pairs," said Stuart Ryder from the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO) in Sydney, Australia and lead author of the study. "Many of these binary pairs will interact and transfer gas from one star to the other when their orbits bring them close together."
The companion to the supernova's progenitor star was no innocent bystander to the explosion. It siphoned off almost all of the hydrogen from the doomed star's stellar envelope, the region that transports energy from the star's core to its atmosphere. Millions of years before the primary star went supernova, the companion's thievery created an instability in the primary star, causing it to episodically blow off a cocoon and shells of hydrogen gas before the catastrophe.
The supernova, called SN 2001ig, is categorized as a Type IIb stripped-envelope supernova. This type of supernova is unusual because most, but not all, of the hydrogen is gone prior to the explosion. This type of exploding star was first identified in 1987 by team member Alex Filippenko of the University of California, Berkeley.
How stripped-envelope supernovas lose that outer envelope is not entirely clear. They were originally thought to come from single stars with very fast winds that pushed off the outer envelopes. The problem was that when astronomers started looking for the primary stars from which supernovas were spawned, they couldn't find them for many stripped-envelope supernovas.
"That was especially bizarre, because astronomers expected that they would be the most massive and the brightest progenitor stars," explained team member Ori Fox of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. "Also, the sheer number of stripped-envelope supernovas is greater than predicted." That fact led scientists to theorize that many of the primary stars were in lower-mass binary systems, and they set out to prove it.
Looking for a binary companion after a supernova explosion is no easy task. First, it has to be at a relatively close distance to Earth for Hubble to see such a faint star. SN 2001ig and its companion are about at that limit. Within that distance range, not many supernovas go off. Even more importantly, astronomers have to know the exact position through very precise measurements.
In 2002, shortly after SN 2001ig exploded, scientists pinpointed the precise location of the supernova with the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Cerro Paranal, Chile. In 2004, they then followed up with the Gemini South Observatory in Cerro Pachón, Chile. This observation first hinted at the presence of a surviving binary companion.
Knowing the exact coordinates, Ryder and his team were able to focus Hubble on that location 12 years later, as the supernova's glow faded. With Hubble's exquisite resolution and ultraviolet capability, they were able to find and photograph the surviving companion--something only Hubble could do.
Prior to the supernova explosion, the orbit of the two stars around each other took about a year.
When the primary star exploded, it had far less impact on the surviving companion than might be thought. Imagine an avocado pit--representing the dense core of the companion star--embedded in a gelatin dessert--representing the star's gaseous envelope. As a shock wave passes through, the gelatin might temporarily stretch and wobble, but the avocado pit would remain intact.
In 2014, Fox and his team used Hubble to detect the companion of another Type IIb supernova, SN 1993J. However, they captured a spectrum, not an image. The case of SN 2001ig is the first time a surviving companion has been photographed. "We were finally able to catch the stellar thief, confirming our suspicions that one had to be there," said Filippenko.
Perhaps as many as half of all stripped-envelope supernovas have companions--the other half lose their outer envelopes via stellar winds. Ryder and his team have the ultimate goal of precisely determining how many supernovas with stripped envelopes have companions.
Their next endeavor is to look at completely stripped-envelope supernovas, as opposed to SN 2001ig and SN 1993J, which were only about 90 percent stripped. These completely stripped-envelope supernovas don't have much shock interaction with gas in the surrounding stellar environment, since their outer envelopes were lost long before the explosion. Without shock interaction, they fade much faster. This means that the team will only have to wait two or three years to look for surviving companions.
In the future, they also hope to use the James Webb Space Telescope to continue their search.
The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy in Washington,
For NASA's Hubble webpage, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/hubble
For more images and information, visit: http://hubblesite.org/news_release/news/2018-20
For the science paper, visit: https://media.stsci.edu/preview/file/science_paper/file_attachment/321/Ryder_published_ApJ_paper.pdf
Ann Jenkins / Ray Villard
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland
410-338-4488 / 410-338-4514
firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland
Australian Astronomical Observatory, Sydney, Australia
University of California, Berkeley, California
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Related Supernova Articles:
For the first time in history, astronomers have been able to watch as a dying star was reborn as a black hole.
Galaxies bend light through an effect called gravitational lensing that helps astronomers peer deeper into the cosmos.
Pre-supernova stars may show signs of instability for months before the big explosion
Astronomers have used the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to observe the remnant of a supernova explosion in the Large Magellanic Cloud.
This image, taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, shows the supernova remnant SNR 0509-68.7, also known as N103B.
Three decades ago, astronomers spotted one of the brightest exploding stars in more than 400 years.
Long-term observations with the Hubble Space Telescope revealed that Eta Carinae, a very massive star system that has puzzled astronomers since it erupted in a supernova-like event in the mid 19th century, has a past that's much more violent than they thought.
An international collaboration led by the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe have discovered that the color of supernovae during a specific phase could be an indicator for detecting the most distant and oldest supernovae in the Universe -- more than 13 billion years old.
Traces of 60Fe detected in space indicate that a nearby supernova occurred within the last few million years.
Approximately two million years ago a star exploded in a supernova close to our solar system: Its traces can still be found today in the form of an iron isotope found on the ocean floor.
Related Supernova Reading:
Supernova (Amulet #8)
by Kazu Kibuishi (Author)
Emily has lost control of her Amulet and is imprisoned in the Void, where she must find a way to escape the influence of the Voice. Meanwhile, Emily's brother, Navin, travels to Lighthouse One, a space station where the Resistance is preparing to battle the approaching Shadow forces that would drain planet Alledia of all its resources. Emily and Navin must be smarter and stronger than ever to ensure Alledia's survival. View Details
The Supernova Advisor: Crossing the Invisible Bridge to Exceptional Client Service and Consistent Growth
by Rob Knapp (Author)
The Supernova Model is a client service, client acquisition, and practice management model that drives an explosive acceleration in revenue and client satisfaction by capitalizing upon the 80/20 Rule. First implemented by financial advisors at Merrill Lynch—under the leadership of author Rob Knapp—it has grown increasingly popular within the financial services industry. The Supernova Advisor skillfully outlines this proven model and reveals how it can be used to create an exceptional experience for your clients, while significantly growing your business. View Details
Supernova: The Knight, the Princess and the Falling Star
by Dewi Lestari (Author), Harry Aveling (Translator)
Supernova: The Knight, The Princess and the Falling Star presents a series of intertwined and unconventional love stories, straight and gay, with a bit of science and spirituality added to the mix. The major characters are young, urban, and technologically highly aware. They are caught up in major forms of contemporary social conflict.
The work has been highly acclaimed. The poet Taufiq Ismail has written: "A renewal has taken place in Indonesian literature over the past decade. Supernova is an intelligent, unique and truly exciting exploration of science, spirituality and... View Details
Supernova (Supernatural Superstar Book 1)
When the only place to hide is in the spotlight...
On the run from the shifter cult that kidnapped her and stole her memories, Audrey is resigned to living her life in the shadows. The cult is raising a dark power that will bring on the end of the world, but to complete the ritual, they need Audrey.
Offered protection by the mercurial president of a talent agency, in exchange Audrey agrees to join pop supergroup, Supernova, alongside the infuriatingly beautiful Thomas Thorne.
Audrey soon learns the president is sitting on enough supernatural... View Details
Supernova (The Lightless Trilogy)
by C.A. Higgins (Author)
C. A. Higgins’s acclaimed novel Lightless fused suspenseful storytelling, high-caliber scientific speculation, and richly developed characters into a stunning science fiction epic. Now the dazzling Supernova heightens the thrills and deepens the haunting exploration of technology and humanity—and the consequences that await when the two intersect.
Once Ananke was an experimental military spacecraft. But a rogue computer virus transformed it—her—into something much more: a fully sentient artificial intelligence, with all the power of a god—and all the... View Details
Supernova Explosions (Astronomy and Astrophysics Library)
by David Branch (Author), J. Craig Wheeler (Author)
Targeting advanced students of astronomy and physics, as well as astronomers and physicists contemplating research on supernovae or related fields, David Branch and J. Craig Wheeler offer a modern account of the nature, causes and consequences of supernovae, as well as of issues that remain to be resolved.
Owing especially to (1) the appearance of supernova 1987A in the nearby Large Magellanic Cloud, (2) the spectacularly successful use of supernovae as distance indicators for cosmology, (3) the association of some supernovae with the enigmatic cosmic gamma-ray bursts, and (4) the... View Details
Supernova Advisor Teams: A Pathway to Excellence
by Curtis C. Brown Jr. (Author), Robert D. Knapp (Author)
Strengthen and unify your Financial Advisor Team
Teams are the principle building blocks of the strategy of successful organizations. The focus of your organization may be on service, quality, cost, value, speed, efficiency, performance, or any other similar goals, but teams remain the central methodology of most organizations across sectors.
Vertical teams and horizontal teams can transcend organizational silos and boundaries if properly focused and supported. Building collaborative teams can improve the client experience. In Supernova Teams; Effective Team... View Details
by Diane Anthony (Author)
Madeline Hayes is a twenty-three-year-old librarian who is content with her simple life in a small town. But when she wakes up in the front yard with no memory of why she's there, suddenly her life becomes more complicated than she ever imagined.
A worldwide blackout, an astronomic death toll, and strange superpowers are just the beginning of Madeline's troubles.
What would a worldwide calamity look like in small town America?
To what lengths will she go to discover her superpower?
What if there's a catch? Will scientists be able to find a cure to the ominous side... View Details
Adventures of Supernova
by Siri Polepalle (Author)
Run Supernova, but Ill get you! Supernova dashed through the cloudy night sky, trying to outrun his rival, Crain. Supernova was flying out of Earth and into space! Shield! A fireproof shield appeared in Supernovas hand. Boom! Clash! Zoom! Supernova was out of the Earth. Now, his favorite part, the blow up. Ahhhhh! Crains head blew up! Crain was defeated. Once and for all. But little did Supernova know the chase was just beginning, as someone else was on his tail. View Details
Supernova: Book III of the Alessandra Legacy Trilogy (Volume 3)
by K. W. Keith (Author)
While the Christmas season showers Rome with snow and splendor, mob boss Raine Mathison simmers with anger over spending the holidays without his new wife. Distanced from Solana Trent by more than mere miles, he wants answers behind his beloved journalist’s icy chill, and after receiving cryptic clues from an unlikely source, he makes a bold overture. Haunted by Raine’s apparent infidelity, Solana struggles to understand the man who seems determined to be her husband in more than name only, but despite her desperate want for him, protecting her darkest secret is of the utmost importance.... View Details