Timelapse shows twenty-five years in the life of one the most studied objects in astronomy: Supernova 1987a

October 31, 2018, University of Toronto
Credit: The Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Toronto

Since it first appeared in the southern night sky on February 24th 1987, Supernova 1987A has been one of the most studied objects in the history of astronomy.

The supernova was the cataclysmic death of a blue supergiant star, some 168,000 light-years from Earth, in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our own Milky Way Galaxy. It was the brightest supernova to appear in our skies since Kepler's Supernova in 1604 and the first since the invention of the telescope.

The brilliant new star was first spotted by two astronomers working at the Las Campanas Observatory in northern Chile the night of the 24th: the University of Toronto's Ian Shelton, and a telescope operator at the , Oscar Duhalde.

Now, Yvette Cendes, a graduate student with the University of Toronto and the Leiden Observatory, has created a time-lapse showing the aftermath of the over a 25-year period, from 1992 to 2017. The images show the shockwave expanding outward and slamming into debris that ringed the original star before its demise.

In an accompanying paper, published in the Astrophysical Journal on October 31st, Cendes and her colleagues add to the evidence that the expanding remnant is shaped—not like a ring like those of Saturn's—but like a donut, a form known as a torus.

They also confirm that the shockwave has now picked up some one thousand kilometres per second in speed. The acceleration has occurred because the expanding torus has punched through the ring of debris.

Cendes' co-authors include Dunlap Institute Director Prof. Bryan Gaensler and Dunlap postdoctoral fellow Cherry Ng. The time-lapse was created from radio observations made with the CSIRO Australia Compact Telescope Array at the Paul Wild Observatory, New South Wales, Australia.

Explore further: Astronomers observe the magnetic field of the remains of supernova 1987A

More information: Y. Cendes et al. The Reacceleration of the Shock Wave in the Radio Remnant of SN 1987A, The Astrophysical Journal (2018). DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/aae261 , https://arxiv.org/abs/1809.02364

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5 comments

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Surveillance_Egg_Unit
1.9 / 5 (9) Oct 31, 2018
Beautiful work, that. And the Torus may contain a Plasmatic Bubble, similar to the one found at Sgr A* - mentioned in a past physorg article.
Da Schneib
4.4 / 5 (8) Oct 31, 2018
It's particularly interesting because although neutrino data and the size of the original star indicate that a neutron star remnant should have formed, astronomers have not been able to find any evidence of it so far.
Da Schneib
4.1 / 5 (9) Oct 31, 2018
SgrA* is not a supernova remnant. For the simplest objection, it's far too massive.
Enthusiastic Fool
not rated yet Nov 01, 2018
Hmm, my dumb brain seems to think that the explanation in the article for observed speed increases doesn't make sense. If I shot a bullet through a door it wouldn't accelerate once it punched through the door. Is there some kind of neutron star wind powering the shockwave? I went and read the abstract. I couldn't find it clearly stated but since it caused radio and x-ray emissions to increase when the shock hit the ER could it be expanding faster because of its own "heat" rather than momentum from the initial SN? Photon emissions from the impact with the surrounding material could basically act as a wind and re-accelerate it once it's through the thicker medium? Maybe I'm on some perpetual motion trip here. Let me know.
rrwillsj
not rated yet Nov 02, 2018
Remember Roller Derby? How the lead skater would reach behind themselves to grab the hand of a following skater. Then yank the follower past the lead, imparting some of the lead's momentum to accelerate the other skater.

To zoom past , flying by to violently ram into the opposing team's lead skaters.

The sacrifice of energy from the lead to the follower often resulted in the human catapult being flung off onto an unpredictable course to hopefully, collide with the railing! Preventing themselves from crashing off into the center or off into the audience.

This is very similar to the randomly chaotic furballs observed in planetesimal disks & the accretion disks around Stygian Obstinacy's, Explains the variety of debris we see in our own Solar System's Asteroid Belt.

Gravity, it's always about the Gravity. Why predicting effects out of a myriad of contributing masses can never be specific.

Rules? Hahaha! We don't need no stinkin' rules!

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