Exploding Stars Seed the Cosmos with the Building Blocks of the Universe

The debris fields of supernova remnants spreads iron, silicon, sulfur and other elements through the universe  

Space news (June 04, 2015) – 16,000 light-years away and 4,500 years ago in the constellation Musca –

G299 was left over by a particular class of supernovas called Type Ia. Astronomers think that a Type Ia supernova is a thermonuclear explosion – involving the fusion of elements and release of vast amounts of energy − of a white dwarf star in a tight orbit with a companion star. If the white dwarf’s partner is a typical, Sun-like star, the white dwarf can become unstable and explode as it draws material from its companion. Alternatively, the white dwarf is in orbit with another white dwarf, the two may merge and can trigger an explosion.
G299 was left over by a particular class of supernovas called Type Ia. Astronomers think that a Type Ia supernova is a thermonuclear explosion – involving the fusion of elements and release of vast amounts of energy − of a white dwarf star in a tight orbit with a companion star. If the white dwarf’s partner is a typical, Sun-like star, the white dwarf can become unstable and explode as it draws material from its companion. Alternatively, the white dwarf is in orbit with another white dwarf, the two may merge and can trigger an explosion. Image Credit Chandra and NASA.

The new Chandra image above shows the remnant of supernova G299.2-2.9 (or G299 for short), a Type Ia supernova space scientists are studying intensely. Current computer models and data suggests the remnant should be almost perfectly spherical, but analysis of this image shows asymmetrical regions making astronomers rethink their ideas.

Space scientists use the uniform brightness of Type Ia supernovae as “Standard Candles” or “Mileposts” to measure distances in the universe accurately. By measuring how bright a supernova appears, space scientists can estimate its distance from Earth. This allows them to determine the distance of other celestial objects viewed during our journey.

Brian Schmidt of the Australian National University in Canberra and Adam Riess of John Hopkins University in Baltimore used the similarity in Type Ia supernova to figure out how fast the cosmos is expanding in real time in 1989. They would eventually be awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics for their groundbreaking work.

Space scientists conducting further analysis of this new Chandra image believe data indicates the amount of iron and silicon in the region of the remnant just above center is larger than the region just below center. This is shown in the greener color of the upper region compared to the blue color of the lower region.

They also point to the slightly elongated region extending to the right in the image, indicating varying rates of expansion, and a lopsided explosion. In this region, the relative amounts of iron to silicon is similar to that found in the southern region of the remnant.

The pattern space scientists see in this image suggest to them they need to rethink their ideas on the uniformity of Type Ia supernovae. It appears they’re more varied than first thought, which really isn’t a surprise.

Why would Type Ia supernovae vary more than first thought?

There could be hot gases and other things in the regions supernova remnant G299 has traveled through during the past 4,500 years. This would create uneven rates of expansion.

We have also only looked at a small sample of Type Ia supernovae and supernovas in whole during our journey to the beginning of space and time. Our limited knowledge of these cosmic events is probably part of the reason things didn’t quite turn out as predicted by space scientists.

As space scientists gather more data and view more of these cosmic wonders they’ll alter their ideas and develop theories to help uncover more mysteries sure to entrance the human soul during our journey.

For more information on NASA’s space mission to the stars visit here.

To learn more about the Chandra X-ray Observatory go here.

Learn more about the first solar flare emitted by Sol in 2015.

Learn about one of the mysteries revealed by the Cassini Spacecraft during its journey to Saturn’s moon Titan.

Learn how ancient Peruvians created a functional calendar they used to accurately predict the rising and setting of the sun through the year.

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