Swift sees double supernova in galaxy

Jun 26, 2007
Swift sees double supernova in galaxy
Supernova 2007ck (left) is a Type II event, and Supernova 2007co (right) is a Type Ia event. The image is a combination of red, green, and blue pictures taken on June 9 and 12 by the Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope on NASA's Swift satellite, which was designed primarily to study another type of stellar explosion -- gamma ray bursts. Credit: Stefan Immler NASA/GSFC, Swift Science Team

In just the past six weeks, two supernovae have flared up in an obscure galaxy in the constellation Hercules. Never before have astronomers observed two of these powerful stellar explosions occurring in the same galaxy so close together in time.

The galaxy, known as MCG +05-43-16, is 380 million light-years from Earth. Until this year, astronomers had never sighted a supernova popping off in this stellar congregation. A supernova is an extremely energetic and life-ending explosion of a star.

Making the event even more unusual is the fact that the two supernovae belong to different types. Supernova 2007ck is a Type II event – which is triggered when the core of a massive star runs out of nuclear fuel and collapses gravitationally, producing a shock wave that blows the star to smithereens. Supernova 2007ck was first observed on May 19.

In contrast, Supernova 2007co is a Type Ia event, which occurs when a white dwarf star accretes so much material from a binary companion star that it blows up like a giant thermonuclear bomb. It was discovered on June 4, 2007. A white dwarf is the exposed core of a star after it has ejected its atmosphere; it’s approximately the size of Earth but with the mass of our Sun.

"Most galaxies have a supernova every 25 to 100 years, so it’s remarkable to have a galaxy with two supernovae discovered just 16 days apart," says Stefan Immler of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. In 2006 Immler used NASA’s Swift satellite to image two supernovae in the elliptical galaxy NGC 1316, but both of those explosions were Type Ia events, and they were discovered six months apart.

The simultaneous appearance of two supernovae in one galaxy is an extremely rare occurrence, but it’s merely a coincidence and does not imply anything unusual about MCG +05-43-16. Because the two supernovae are tens of thousands of light-years from each other, and because light travels at a finite speed, astronomers in the galaxy itself, or in a different galaxy, might record the two supernovae exploding thousands of years apart.

Source: Goddard Space Flight Center

Explore further: Quest for extraterrestrial life not over, experts say

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Supernova cleans up its surroundings

Apr 10, 2014

(Phys.org) —Supernovas are the spectacular ends to the lives of many massive stars. These explosions, which occur on average twice a century in the Milky Way, can produce enormous amounts of energy and ...

Image: Hubble sees a spiral home to exploding stars

Apr 09, 2014

(Phys.org) —In this  Hubble image, we can see an almost face-on view of the galaxy NGC 1084. At first glance, this galaxy is pretty unoriginal. Like the majority of galaxies that we observe it is a spiral ...

Recommended for you

Quest for extraterrestrial life not over, experts say

Apr 18, 2014

The discovery of an Earth-sized planet in the "habitable" zone of a distant star, though exciting, is still a long way from pointing to the existence of extraterrestrial life, experts said Friday. ...

Continents may be a key feature of Super-Earths

Apr 18, 2014

Huge Earth-like planets that have both continents and oceans may be better at harboring extraterrestrial life than those that are water-only worlds. A new study gives hope for the possibility that many super-Earth ...

Exoplanets soon to gleam in the eye of NESSI

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —The New Mexico Exoplanet Spectroscopic Survey Instrument (NESSI) will soon get its first "taste" of exoplanets, helping astronomers decipher their chemical composition. Exoplanets are planets ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Cosmologists weigh cosmic filaments and voids

(Phys.org) —Cosmologists have established that much of the stuff of the universe is made of dark matter, a mysterious, invisible substance that can't be directly detected but which exerts a gravitational ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.