In a first,
A team of astronomers has used radio telescopes in Australia and Chile to see inside the remains of a supernova.
The supernova, known as SN1987A, was first seen by observers in the Southern Hemisphere in 1987 when a giant star suddenly exploded at the edge of a nearby dwarf galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud.
In the two and a half decades since then, the remnant of supernova has continued to be a focus for researchers the world over, providing a wealth of information about one of the universe’s most extreme events.
“We have been able to distinguish radiation being emitted by the supernova’s expanding shock wave from the radiation caused by dust forming in the inner regions of the remnant,” explained Giovanna Zanardo from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) in Perth, Western Australia.
The observations showed signs of something never seen before at the centre or the remnant.
It could be a pulsar wind nebula, driven by the spinning neutron star, or pulsar, which astronomers have been searching for since 1987.
“We are beginning to understand the composition of the environment surrounding the supernova – which is a big piece of the puzzle solved in terms of how the remnant of SN1987A formed,” Zanardo added.
The research was published in the Astrophysical Journal.