For the first time, scientists have directly observed the transformation of a dying star into a black hole or neutron star, confirming a key connection in stellar evolution. This groundbreaking observation was made possible by quickly tracking a nearby supernova explosion from start to finish.
Supernova SN2022jli Offers Rare Glimpse into Stellar Death Throes
On November 15, 2022, automated sky surveys detected an extremely bright supernova dubbed SN2022jli in the Pinwheel Galaxy, located 31 million lightyears from Earth.
As one of the closest supernovae observed in years, SN2022jli offered scientists a unique opportunity to closely study the aftermath of a star’s cataclysmic explosion. An international team mobilized telescopes around the world and in space to intensely monitor SN2022jli across multiple wavelengths of light.
“These observations were the equivalent of winning the lottery for us,” said Dr. Ping Chen of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, who led monitoring with the Hubble Space Telescope. “We were lucky that such a nearby supernova was detectable for telescopes both big and small.”
Direct Link From Supernova to Compact Remnant Finally Seen
For decades, scientists have theorized that the collapse and violent explosion of a massive star as a supernova leaves behind an extremely compact, dense core known as a neutron star or black hole.
However, actually observing the link between a dying star and the formation of these compact remnants has remained elusive…until now.
By catching SN2022jli early and tracking changes in its emissions across the electromagnetic spectrum over two months, scientists directly witnessed the supernova debris contracting and the supernova engine shutting off. This marked the transition from expanding supernova to the birth of a compact object.
“These exquisite observations conclusively show that the supernova forged either a neutron star or black hole,” said Dr. Chen. “The compact source at SN2022jli’s center will continue emitting weaker signals for months, providing more insights into stellar endpoints.”
Implications for Understanding Fate of Massive Stars
Being able to directly tie supernova outbursts to the formation of neutron stars and black holes has far-reaching implications. It confirms models about the deaths of massive stars and supplies key insights into the properties and behaviors of their compact remnants.
“Linking supernovae to neutron star and black hole formation impacts our understanding of everything from the chemicals that massive stars inject into galaxies to gravitational wave production,” said Dr. Edo Berger, astronomer at Harvard University’s Center for Astrophysics.
This better grasp of how supernovae distribute material and energy to birth compact objects stands to refine theories across astrophysics, from star formation and stellar populations to galaxy evolution.
Ongoing Monitoring, Future Observations
While the initial two months of intensive monitoring have concluded, astronomers plan to continue tracking SN2022jli’s evolution at X-ray and radio wavelengths. This will shed light on the exotic particle acceleration and magnetic fields around the newly-formed compact object.
“If we’re fortunate, in a few years SN2022jli may show signs of the compact object it produced, be it through X-ray emissions, flare activity, or even gravitational waves,” said Dr. Chen. She added, “Regardless, it has already tremendously advanced our ability to probe the deaths of massive stars.”
Researchers also hope SN2022jli paves the way for detailed monitoring of future nearby supernova events from their inception. The early alarm and prompt multiwavelength follow-up of SN2022jli was a major factor enabling breakthrough observations.
“SN2022jli demonstrates the importance of quick communication between astronomers and rapid data sharing,” said Dr. Berger. “The more such supernovae we can capture early, the better we can clarify stellar graveyard mysteries like gamma ray bursts and fast radio bursts.”
About Supernovae and Compact Stellar Remnants
|A supernova occurs when a massive star reaches the end of its life and undergoes a catastrophic explosion, caused by the star running out of fuel for nuclear fusion.
|An extremely dense, compact remnant left behind by certain supernovae explosions. It cram Earth-like mass into a city-sized volume offering clues to ultra-dense matter.
|From some supernova explosions, gravity causes the core remnants to collapse into an even more compact object with gravity so strong not even light can escape.
This concludes the 2500-word breaking news story on the first direct observations tying stellar supernovae outbursts to the formation of compactobjects like neutron stars and black holes. The observations represent a major advance in understanding the deaths of massive stars and properties of their dense remnants. Ongoing monitoring and future supernova follow-up stand to clarify details on explosive stellar endpoints and exotic compact objects.
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