Mystery on Source of Supernova in Nearby Galaxy Solved

Using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have solved a longstanding mystery on the type of star, or so-called progenitor, which caused a supernova seen in a nearby galaxy. Based on previous observations from ground-based telescopes, astronomers knew the supernova class, called a Type Ia, created a remnant named SNR 0509-67.5, which lies 170,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy. Theoretically, this kind of supernova explosion is caused by a star spilling material onto a white dwarf companion, the compact remnant of a normal star, until it sets off one of the most powerful explosions in the universe. Astronomers failed to find any remnant  of  the  companion  star, however, and concluded  that  the common scenario did not apply in this case, although it is still a viable theory for other Type Ia supernovae. The cause of SNR 0509-67.5 can be explained best by two tightly orbiting white dwarf stars spiraling closer and closer until they collided and exploded. In 2010, Schaefer and Ashley Pagnotta of LSU were preparing a proposal to look for any faint ex-companion stars in the center of four supernova remnants in the Large Magellanic Cloud when they discovered the Hubble Space Telescope already had taken the desired image of one of their target remnants, SNR 0509-67.5, for the Hubble Heritage program, which collects images of especially photogenic astronomical targets. In analyzing the central region, they found it to be completely empty of stars down to the limit of the faintest objects Hubble can detect in the photos. Schaefer suggests the best explanation left is the so-called “double degenerate model” in which two white dwarfs collide.
source:www.nasa.gov

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