Supernova 1987A And The Mystery Inside It

by Meenal Bhatia

Supernova 1987A And The Mystery Inside It

July 20, 2020

The universe has never ceased to amaze humankind – every discovery reveals but only a minuscule of the iota outside Earth’s periphery. And that’s where the story of ‘Supernova 1987A’ comes in.

The story of this 30-year hunt for a neutron star opened scientists and astrology enthusiasts to an array of curiosity filled questions about outer space. The story of the search for this star dates back to the year 1987. On February 23, 1987, a star exploded in a nearby galaxy.

Interstellar Eureka

Supernova 1987A was the closest known supernova across a panned history of 400 years. The astronomers who witnessed this incredible moment in space history immediately initiated the search for the remaining neutron star.

According to percepts from space and astronomy records, it has been deduced that it leaves behind a neutron star when a massive starburst during a supernova exploration goes behind a neutron star.

Even after using the world’s best telescopes, the inability to find the neutron star is slowly raised doubts among the star-gazers. Many have even started doubting the current reliability of the existing theoretical supernovae models.

Continuing Pursuit of Supernovae

In a 2015 study, divulged in the Astrophysical Journal, the supernovae theory’s contentions stated that a team led by Phil Cigan from Cardiff University spotted emissions from the vast veil of dust the explosion left behind, indicating that an object is present.

There are multiple criticisms against this ‘detection’ of the paper published in 2015. One widely believed theory is that the neutron star wasn’t visible inside the cocoon-like clump of gas or “The Bob.”

The bright ring around the exploded star’s central region comprises material ejected by the star about 20,000 years before its demise. Clouds of hydrogen gas surround the Supernova 1987A, fueling a firestorm of star birth.

Ring of X-Rays

Astronomers hope that the dust around Supernova 1987A will clear in the upcoming years (or decades). However, according to Robert Kirshner from Harvard University, the dust could continue to build up and obscure the view even more.

For the last 20 years, Chandra data showed a growing ring of X-ray emission. The blast wave from the original implosion has been bursting through and warming the ring of gas engulfing the supernova, producing X-rays.

However, the ring has stopped getting brighter in X-rays. From about February 2013 until the last Chandra observation analyzed five years ago, the total amount of low-energy X-rays has remained constant.

Keplers supernova remnant produced by combining data from NASAs three Great Observatories the Hubble Space Telescope the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Chandra X ray Observatory
Kepler's supernova remnant produced by combining data from NASA's three Great Observatories -- the Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

The 30 years' worth of observations of SN 1987A are important because they provide insight into the last stages of stellar evolution.

- Robert Kirshner, Astronomer, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, & Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

For the last 20 years, Chandra data showed a growing ring of X-ray emission. The blast wave from the original implosionhas been bursting through and warming the ring of gas engulfing the supernova, producing X-rays.

However, the ring has stopped getting brighter in X-rays. From about February 2013 until the last Chandra observation analyzed 5 years ago, the total amount of low-energy X-rays has remained constant.

Where is ?

Astronomers are continually searching for evidence for a black hole or neutron star that would have been left behind by the explosion. They even observed neutron flashes. This detection makes scientists quite sure of an object at the core of the supernova. However, no telescopic evidence has been found to date.

The fascination with Supernova 1987A will continue to rule the astronomers unless a supernova explosion happens somewhere in closer proximity. But, what are the chances, we wonder!

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