The discovery of a supernova offers new light on a 1,000-year-old cosmic riddle ‘Who is this strangeo?’
SCIENTISTS have discovered evidence of an electron-capture supernova – a theorized explosion that lit up the skies in the Middle Ages – for the first time.
The revolutionary supernova finding could aid in the resolution of two cosmic mysteries, one of which has perplexed astronomers for nearly a thousand years. According to NASA, supernovas are among the universe’s largest and most magnificent pyrotechnics, serving as the “final hurrah of a dying giant star.” The light from supernovas is intense enough to temporarily eclipse all of the stars in a galaxy.
One such supernova may have lighted up the skies about 1,000 years ago, giving birth to the gorgeous Crab Nebula, according to a recent article published in Nature Astronomy.
However, this was not a typical supernova, such as one caused by a big star collapsing in on itself or a white dwarf star exploding in a thermonuclear explosion.
Instead, an international team of scientists led by the University of California, Santa Barbara, has discovered new evidence of a type of supernova known as an electron-capture supernova.
For nearly half a century, scientists have speculated about the existence of this third form of supernova, but there has been little evidence of their existence.
An electron-capture supernova, triggered by the explosion of a super-asymptotic giant branch (SAGB) star, may be responsible for a strange burst of light seen in the year 1054 AD.
Chinese and Japanese sources from that year mention a dazzling source of light that was visible during the day for 23 years.
The supernova was also visible at night for two years before giving way to the Crab Nebula, a supernova remnant roughly 6,500 light-years from Earth.
Scientists have previously identified two types of supernova: type I and type II.
When a white dwarf in a binary star system syphons material from its partner until it sparks a runaway nuclear reaction, a Type I supernova erupts.
When a large star runs out of nuclear fuel, gravity causes it to collapse and explode, resulting in a type II supernova.
However, in 1980, astrophysicists at the University of Tokyo proposed an electron-capture supernova as a third, theoretical type of supernova.
Supernovas occur in stars with lighter cores consisting of oxygen, neon, and magnesium in this example.
These cores include some electrons. “Brinkwire News in Condensed Form.”