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Decipher the mysterious explosion that makes the sky bright for 23 days and nights

Monday, July 5, 2021 14:30 PM (GMT+7)

The explosion that lit up the sky for 23 days and nights in 1054 AD may have been the explosion of a rare type of supernova, a new study suggests.

Supernova Crab

On July 4, 1054 – about 700 years before America first set off fireworks, a mysterious light exploded in the sky. The explosion was visible around the world, persisted in the daytime sky for nearly a month, and was visible at night for nearly two years, according to NASA.

At the time, Chinese astronomers called the mysterious explosion a “guest star” – a temporary celestial body that appeared to appear out of nowhere, then disappear into nothingness. Yet modern space telescopes like NASA’s Hubble reveal that Earth’s strange “guest” is here (albeit 6,500 light-years away).

What remains of that ancient flare is known today as the Crab Nebula – a massive and rapidly expanding balloon of irradiated gas with a pulsating powerful neutron star at its center. Nebulae like these are the smoldering remnants of once mighty stars that lost most of their mass in massive supernova explosions.

The Crab, the third supernova

“The Crab supernova is thought to be an electron-capturing supernova, but because it occurred a thousand years ago, not much data is available on the progenitor star and the explosion itself,” said lead author of the study research Daichi Hiramatsu, a graduate student at the University. of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), said.

When a star explodes, it usually goes out in one of two ways: A thermonuclear supernova, or an iron core collapse supernova.

Electron-capturing supernovae fit between the two, born from stars between 8 and 10 times the mass of the Sun – not too heavy, not too light. Since the 1980s, astronomers have calculated that stars in this transition mass range could be victims of a strange pattern of death, where an overwhelming gravitational force crushes the core of the star. stars, causing electrons in their cores to slam into their atomic nuclei, causing core collapse.

For a progenitor star that would start off quite massive, but lose a lot of mass before the explosion begins, filling the space around it with a jet of gas. When the star’s core finally explodes, it creates a relatively weak, slow-moving explosion that interacts with nearby gas, making it brighter than expected.

Scientists have never found a star that perfectly fits these criteria – until March 2018, when a star 31 million light-years away from Earth ceased to exist.

In their new study, the researchers analyzed the star using data from both the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes to match the supernova remnant (SN 2018zd) with its progenitor star. create it. They found that the star and the explosion fit all the criteria for the legendary electron-capture supernova.

This research gives scientists a new way to look at the remnants of dead stars.



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