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New life in dead star (article on SN 1987A)

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New life in dead star (article on SN 1987A) was created by Seanie_Morris

Seems that SN1987A is still producing surprises. The following is copied from cnn.com...


Newly detected dust found around the burst remains of a dead star could help reveal how planets and stars formed and how life began.

About 160,000 years ago, a star 20 times more massive than our sun erupted in a fiery explosion called a supernova. The star was located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a nearby dwarf galaxy. In 1987, the first light from that catastrophic event reached Earth and for several months, the supernova, dubbed SN 1987A, blazed as brightly as 100 million suns before fading again.

Now, nearly two decades later, astronomers have detected dust particles around the supernova that they think formed before the star exploded. The new finding is the first evidence that star dust can survive a supernova explosion. It is also providing a rare glimpse into a process called "sputtering," in which dust is eroded by interactions with superheated gas.

"Supernova 1987A is changing right before our eyes," said Eli Dwek, a cosmic dust expert at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland who was involved in the finding. "What we are seeing is a milestone in the evolution of a supernova."
Cosmic building blocks

Finer than grains of beach sand, stellar dust is a constant source of frustration for astronomers because it can obscure observations from distant stars. Yet the troublesome dust is also a prime ingredient in the construction of planets and of all living things. The dust is made in the fiery furnaces of stars as they burn and is scattered across space either by stellar winds or by supernova explosions.

Despite its importance, scientists still know very little about star dust. How much dust does a star produce throughout its lifetime? How much survives a star's death? And how do rings of dust coalesce to form stars and planets?

1987A's newly detected stardust, found using an infrared telescope at the Gemini South Observatory in Chile, could help astronomers answer these questions. The dust particles are intermixed with superheated, X-ray emitting gas and found within an equatorial ring around SN 1987A. About a light-year across, the ring of gas and dust is expanding very slowly.

This suggests that the ring was created about 600,000 years before the star exploded, the researchers say. It is therefore unlikely that the ring was created by a supernova blast during the star's death, but rather by stellar winds when the star was still alive.
Made visible

The ring of dust and gas remained invisible for nearly twenty years until shockwaves from the supernova blast caught up with it. As the shockwaves expanded, they passed through the ring, heating up its gas and normally cool dust until they glowed in the infrared.

"This much was expected," said study team member Patrice Bouchet of the Observatoire de Paris. "The collision between the ejecta of supernova 1987A and the equatorial ring was predicted to occur sometime in the interval of 1995 to 2007, and it is now underway."

What was surprising, however, was the composition of the dust, which followup observations with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope revealed to be almost pure silicate. Also, far less dust than expected was detected. A star as massive as the one that created SN 1987A was thought to produce much more dust.

The dearth of dust could mean that shockwaves from the supernova blast destroyed more dust than originally thought. This could have broad implications for determining dust origins throughout the universe if confirmed, the researchers say.

A spate of new infrared, optical and X-ray observations of SN 1987A are now planned to follow up on the new findings.
Midlands Astronomy Club.
Radio Presenter (Midlands 103), Space Enthusiast, Astronomy Outreach Co-ordinator.
Former IFAS Chairperson and Secretary.
16 years 6 months ago #31041

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Replied by BrianOHalloran on topic Re: New life in dead star (article on SN 1987A)

Nice report - it's funny to see someone you know being quoted (Eli Dwek is a collaborator of mine on Spitzer work)!

On a side note, I'm off tomorrow to get Jack Schmitt's autograph at the Air and Space Museum in DC :wink:
16 years 6 months ago #31044

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Replied by JohnMurphy on topic Re: New life in dead star (article on SN 1987A)

Read an article on this on Space.com recently - interesting stuff.

On a side note, I'm off tomorrow to get Jack Schmitt's autograph at the Air and Space Museum in DC


Brian - I wouldn't mind getting a copy if your successful - Scan it and post it if you do - cheers! It's sad to think that there are only nine men still alive that have moonwalked and time is running out. Jack was Apollo 17 wasn't he? Ask him to sign his full name Jack Harrison Schmitt "when you hear the voice of God over your shoulder it gets your attention". Is he still doing geology?
Clear Skies,
John Murphy
Irish Astronomical Society
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16 years 6 months ago #31052

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Replied by BrianOHalloran on topic Re: New life in dead star (article on SN 1987A)

On a side note, I'm off tomorrow to get Jack Schmitt's autograph at the Air and Space Museum in DC


Brian - I wouldn't mind getting a copy if your successful - Scan it and post it if you do - cheers! It's sad to think that there are only nine men still alive that have moonwalked and time is running out. Jack was Apollo 17 wasn't he? Ask him to sign his full name Jack Harrison Schmitt "when you hear the voice of God over your shoulder it gets your attention". Is he still doing geology?


Hi John.

Only saw your message now - I got it! Unlike others (Dave Scott, hang your head in shame), Jack personalised it. That book now has pride of place! I'll scan it for you and send it to you. Jack was on 17 - he looks well for a 71 year old, and is keeping busy. He's mostly into advocacy for lunar exploration these days, both publicly and privately funded. I think he quit being a fulltime geologist when he became a senator back in 1976.

Very nice guy, by the way - was glad to pose for a photo with myself and the missus. (I have to admit, I was a bit awestruck). On the way out later on, we passed by him and he smiled and winked at us. That was rather cool ;)
16 years 6 months ago #31131

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Replied by JohnMurphy on topic Re: New life in dead star (article on SN 1987A)

Brian,

Great! Glad to see Jack didn't dissapoint. He was always one of my favourites - a bit more feet on the ground (if you can say that about a moonwalker). He got so excited on the moon Nasa almost threw a fit.
Clear Skies,
John Murphy
Irish Astronomical Society
Check out My Photos
16 years 5 months ago #31226

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