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Amateur astronomer testing new camera catches supernova as it’s being born

Discussion in 'Announcements' started by jamiebaloney, Feb 22, 2018.

  1. jamiebaloney

    jamiebaloney Member


    Peering at a distant galaxy, an amateur astronomer in Argentina managed to capture a star in the act of going supernova. The chances of this discovery, scientists say, are 1-in-a-million at best.

    This lucky find, described this week in the journal Nature, resulted poker online w88 in the first images of the sudden brightening caused by a shock in the star's core — a process that had been theorized but never observed.

    "This is the first confirmation of the existence of this phase, which is really in agreement with the models," said lead author Melina Bersten, an astrophysicist at the Instituto de Astrofisica de La Plata in Argentina. SN 2016gkg was spotted in September 2016 by study coauthor Victor Buso, an amateur astronomer based out of Rosario, Argentina. Buso had been testing a new camera on his 16-inch telescope by aiming it at spiral galaxy NGC 613, which lies roughly 80 million light-years away in the constellation Sculptor.

    After taking a series of short-exposure photographs, Buso took a look at his work and noticed, at the end of one of the galaxy's spiral arms, a bright point in the later images that hadn't been there in the earlier ones. It takes experience to be able to notice such a tiny but significant change, said Gaston Folatelli, an astronomer at the Instituto de Astrofisica de La Plata and one of the study's authors.

    "Victor was really very lucky — cannot deny that — but also he had enough expertise to be able to see the object and to realize that this was possible," said Folatelli, who helped lead the work with Bersten. Buso put the word out. Within hours, telescopes around the world had been trained on the bright object. Astronomers continued to study it for two months, breaking up the light into different wavelengths to better understand the nature of the explosion — and the dying star that fueled it.

    Supernovas are the violent, explosive deaths of massive stars. They online slots malaysia release energy across the electromagnetic spectrum from X-rays to visible light and radio waves, and are so powerful that they produce heavy elements that the nuclear fusion in their hearts could never forge in life.

    The light generated by the first hours of that supernova explosion could potentially reveal much about the structure and makeup of a star's surface just before it died. But supernovas are unpredictable at best, and catching that first brightening is exceedingly difficult, Folatelli said.

    In the paper, the authors estimate the odds of spotting this crucial early stage at 1-in-a-million or 1-in-10-million chance.

    (Keep in mind, Rosario is low flatland and usually quite humid — less-than-ideal conditions in which to perform astronomy. The fact that Buso was able to pick out the supernova in such conditions was also a lucky break, Folatelli said.)

    By studying the light coming from this celestial apparition, 138bet malaysia the researchers found that it was a Type IIb supernova, one that may have come from a weird class of stars known as yellow supergiants.

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