TECH

Amazing Supernova Pictured Showing Dusty Regions Where Stars And Planets Form

07/01/2014 11:43 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 21:01 GMT
Alexandra Angelich

A beautiful young supernova containing the dust required to give birth to new planets and stars has been pictured for the first time.

The Alma (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) telescope in Chile captured the remarkable images which provide the first direct evidence that supernovas can create dust.

If enough of this dust makes the perilous transition into interstellar space, it could explain how many galaxies acquired their dusty, dusky appearance.

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An artist's impression of the Supernova 1987A

Astronomer, Remy Indebetouw, said: "We have found a remarkably large dust mass concentrated in the central part of the ejecta from a relatively young and nearby supernova.

"This is the first time we've been able to really image where the dust has formed, which is important in understanding the evolution of galaxies."

The inner red region shows the cold dusty region where the remains of the star that formed the supernova are.

The blue and white outer region is where energy from the supernova is colliding with the envelope of gas ejected from the star prior to its powerful detonation.

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With ALMA’s unprecedented resolution and sensitivity, the research team was able to image the far more abundant cold dust, which glows brightly in millimetre and submillimetre light.

The astronomers estimate that the remnant now contains about 25 percent the mass of our Sun in newly formed dust.

They also found that significant amounts of carbon monoxide and silicon monoxide have formed.

Indebetouw said: "1987A (the supernova) is a special place since it hasn’t mixed with the surrounding environment, so what we see there was made there.

"The new ALMA results, which are the first of their kind, reveal a supernova remnant chock full of material that simply did not exist a few decades ago."

The full paper relating to this find will be published in Number 1, 2014 January 20, in the Astrophysics Journal.