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Astronomers map supernova explosion in 'unprecedented' detail


An illustration of a supernova. /CFP
An illustration of a supernova. /CFP

An illustration of a supernova. /CFP

A multinational team of astronomers, led by Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science (WIS), has captured a "once-in-a-lifetime" supernova and mapped it in "unprecedented" detail, the WIS said in a statement on Wednesday.

A supernova is a massive star explosion that occurs when a star burns through its fuel at the end of its lifespan, resulting in a brilliant burst of fiery plasma in vibrant colors radiating with the brightness of a hundred million suns.

As described in the journal Nature, the team used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to witness in real-time one of the closest supernovae in decades, a red supergiant star exploding in a neighboring galaxy, Messier 101.

The researchers were able, for the first time, to closely follow a supernova while its light emerged from the circumstellar material in which the exploding star was embedded.

They then acquired data on the star from times before its demise when it was just a red supergiant star, thus creating the most complete portrait of a supernova, a composite of its last days and death.

The team also found a gap between the mass of material ejected from the star during the explosion and its original mass, suggesting that the supernova left behind a black hole into which the missing mass was swallowed.

The researchers concluded that "this study presents a unique opportunity to better understand the mechanisms that lead to the conclusion of a star's life and the eventual formation of something entirely new."

Source(s): Xinhua News Agency
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