Lucky catch: Scientists observed a supernova explosion in near real time

Lucky catch: Scientists observed a supernova explosion in near real time
Lucky catch: Scientists observed a supernova explosion in near real time

Capturing a supernova during its initial explosion is extremely difficult. We cannot predict them and they are very rare. About one supernova occurs in the Milky Way every century. However, the observation of the youngest is essentially of an older date – a supernova SN 1604, also known as Kepler’s, we observed more than 400 years ago. Fortunately for astronomers, supernovae also explode in other galaxies around us. Last year, astronomers were very pleased by a supernova in this direction SN 2023ixfwhich exploded in the nearby Pinwheel Galaxy.

Scientific maneuvers

The supernova was discovered by a Japanese amateur astronomer Koichi Itagaki May 19, 2023. The crucial initial phase of a supernova only lasts hours, so it was necessary to act very quickly. The discovery was made on Friday night, but Itagaki managed to post the supernova report on the major international Transient Name Server within a few hours. Thanks to this, astronomers all over the world managed to get excited, and less than an hour later, important telescopes were already turning to the place of the explosion. For scientists, such a quick reaction is quite exceptional.

Supernova SN 2023ixf in the Pinwheel Galaxy. (photo: Weizmann Institute of Science, E. Zimmerman, CC BY-SA 4.0)

One of those who then spent a sleepless night collecting fantastic data about the supernova in virtually real time at the beginning of the explosion was Erez Zimmerman from Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science. Science magazine Nature these days published a study by Zimmerman’s team summarizing observations of the supernova SN 2023ixf.

Zimmerman et al. in May 2023, by a happy coincidence, they were working with the Hubble telescope, examining the remnants of supernovae in the UV region. Suddenly they had the opportunity to observe a fresh supernova. Zimmerman especially appreciates that they were the first to have the opportunity to observe in detail how the radiation of a supernova explosion emerges from the cloud of material that surrounded the dying star.

The birth of a black hole?

In addition to the Hubble telescope, the American space observatory also participated in mapping the supernova explosion Swift or Hawaiian scientists Keck Observatory. The compilation of high-quality data allowed the researchers to map the two outer layers of the exploding star and come up with an extraordinary hypothesis.

According to scientists, a black hole was probably born as a result of a stellar explosion. This is indicated by the observed differences in the amount and nature of the surrounding material before and after the explosion. According to Ido Iraniwho participated in the research of the supernova SN 2023ixf, it is possible that the missing material ended up in the voracious maw of the black hole.

The article is in Czech

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