Science

Scientists may have discovered a neutron star lurking inside a famous supernova

One of the most studied objects in the sky is the supernova that first appeared with the naked eye in our sky on February 24, 1987. It was the first supernova visible to the naked eye 400 years ago and was called the supernova 1987A. Since its discovery, researchers have been searching for the crushed stellar core that would have been left when the star exploded, known as the neutron star.

a group of Astronomy scientists Using data from NASA space missions and ground-based telescopes, I finally found the neutron star hidden inside the supernova. Supernova 1987A is located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, which is a smaller companion galaxy to the Milky Way about 170,000 light-years from Earth. Researchers on the project used NASA data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory and previously unpublished data from the NASA Nuclear Spectroscopy Telescope Array along with data from ground observations made using the large, millimeter-scale Atacama array.

Over the past 34 years, astronomers have searched through the debris left by a supernova explosion, in search of the neutron star expected to be there. When a star explodes into a supernova, it collapses in on itself before it detonates its outer layers into space. Compression of the stellar core turns it into an unusually dense body as the mass of the Sun squeezes into a body about 10 miles in diameter.

These remnants are called neutron stars because they are almost exclusively made of densely packed neutrons. Fast-spinning neutron stars called pulsars and produce a beam of radiation that astronomers can detect as pulses as they sweep across the sky. Scientists note that a subset of pulsars produced winds from their surfaces that are sometimes propelled to close to the speed of light, creating complex structures of charged particles and magnetic fields called “stellar wind nebulae.”

With the new observational data, the team detected low-energy X-rays emitted from the nebula along with evidence of high-energy particles. Astronomers believe there are two possible explanations for the energetic X-ray emission, including either the stellar wind nebula or the particles being accelerated to high energies due to the blast wave produced by the explosion. Data in the most recent X-ray study supports the state of the Stellar Wind Nebula.

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