Astronomers Witness First Cosmic-moments of Rare, Newborn Supernovae

Three Type Ia supernovae they study in order to measure cosmic distances and lift the veil of mystery surrounding dark energy

This graphic depicts a light curve of the newly discovered Type Ia supernova, KSN 2011b, from NASA's Kepler spacecraft. The light curve shows a star's brightness (vertical axis) as a function of time (horizontal axis) before, during and after the star exploded. The white diagram on the right represents 40 days of continuous observations by Kepler. In the red zoom box, the agua-colored region is the expected 'bump' in the data if a companion star is present during a supernova. The measurements remained constant (yellow line) concluding the cause to be the merger of two closely orbiting stars, most likely two white dwarfs. The finding provides the first direct measurements capable of informing scientists of the cause of the blast. Credits: NASA Ames/W. Stenzel
This graphic depicts a light curve of the newly discovered Type Ia supernova, KSN 2011b, from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft. The light curve shows a star’s brightness (vertical axis) as a function of time (horizontal axis) before, during and after the star exploded. The white diagram on the right represents 40 days of continuous observations by Kepler. In the red zoom box, the agua-colored region is the expected ‘bump’ in the data if a companion star is present during a supernova. The measurements remained constant (yellow line) concluding the cause to be the merger of two closely orbiting stars, most likely two white dwarfs. The finding provides the first direct measurements capable of informing scientists of the cause of the blast.
Credits: NASA Ames/W. Stenzel

Space news (astrophysics: supernovae; 3 new candidates) – billions of light-years from Earth –

A team of determined astronomers studying the largest explosions viewed during the human journey to the beginning of space and time recently found three new candidates. Three candidates, they found after viewing 400 galaxies for two years using NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope.

Kepler’s unprecedented pre-event supernova observations and Swift’s agility in responding to supernova events have both produced important discoveries at the same time but at very different wavelengths,” says Paul Hertz, Director of Astrophysics for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “Not only do we get insight into what triggers a Type Ia supernova, but these data allow us to better calibrate Type Ia supernovae as standard candles, and that has implications for our ability to eventually understand the mysteries of dark energy.”

In the data they collected over this two year period using NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, this amazing team of explorers found three new and distant Type Ia supernovae, designated KSN 2011b, KSN 2011c, KSN 2012a. Due to the frequent observations of Kepler in the direction of the three distant supernovae, the data collected even contains the first moments of each tremendous blast. Measurements that will allow scientists to piece together the events leading to these events and the reasons for such a tremendous release of energy.

Astrophysicists believe Type Ia supernovae erupt with the same apparent brightness because in all cases the exploding body is a white dwarf star. It’s this property scientists use as a standard candle to more accurately measure the distance to objects around the cosmos than was previously possibly.

Astronomers use computer simulations to simulate the debris field of a Type Ia supernovae (brown) slamming into a companion star (blue) at tens of millions of miles per hour. Resulting ultraviolet light escapes as the supernova shell sweeps over the companion star, which is detected by the Swift Gamma-ray Burst Alert Telescope and other instruments. Credits: UC Berkeley, Daniel Kasen
Astronomers use computer simulations to simulate the debris field of a Type Ia supernovae (brown) slamming into a companion star (blue) at tens of millions of miles per hour. Resulting ultraviolet light escapes as the supernova shell sweeps over the companion star, which is detected by the Swift Gamma-ray Burst Alert Telescope and other instruments. Credits: UC Berkeley, Daniel Kasen

Astronomers also believe that every Type Ia supernovae are either the result of two white dwarf stars merging, or a white dwarf gathering so much material from a nearby companion star, it causes a thermonuclear reaction resulting in the white dwarf going supernova.

Our Kepler supernova discoveries strongly favor the white dwarf merger scenario, while the Swift study, led by Cao, proves that Type Ia supernovae can also arise from single white dwarfs,” said Robert Olling, a research associate at the University of Maryland and lead author of the study. “Just as many roads lead to Rome, nature may have several ways to explode white dwarf stars.”

In the case of KSN 2011b, KSN 2011c, and KSN 2012a, astronomers found no evidence to support the existence of material being taken from a companion star. This leads them to believe the cause in these cases is collision and merger between two closely orbiting white dwarf stars. 

Now, astronomers will use NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope and other Earth and space-based telescopes to search for Type Ia supernovae among thousands of galaxies included in the study. This will allow them to determine the distance of stellar objects across the cosmos more accurately. It will also help them delve deeper into the mystery surrounding dark energy and its true nature. 

The search for supernovae continues

The Kepler spacecraft has delivered yet another surprise, playing an unexpected role in supernova science by providing the first well-sampled early time light curves of Type Ia supernovae,” said Steve Howell, Kepler project scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. “Now in its new mission as K2, the spacecraft will search for more supernovae among many thousands of galaxies.”

Learn more about supernovae here.

Take the journey of the Kepler Space Telescope here.

Learn more about the search for the identity of dark energy here.

Learn more about the things astronomers are learning about the formation of new stars.

Read about plans of private firm Planetary Resources Inc. to mine an asteroid in the near future.

Discover and learn about the things NASA’s New Horizons mission has told us about Pluto and its system of moons.

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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.

Sirius-1 is the main star in the star group Canis Majoris and the brightest in the night sky

Sirius B Astronomy Keystone of African Dogon Tribe

Sirius-1 is the main star in the star group Canis Majoris and the brightest in the night sky
Sirius-1 is the main star in the star group Canis Majoris and the brightest in the night sky

African tribe claims to have been visited by alien beings in ancient times

European astronomer Friedrich Bessel
European astronomer Friedrich Bessel

Ancient Astronomy – Sirius 1 is the main star in the star group Canis Majoris and the brightest in the night sky. Called the Dog Star by both ancient star watchers and modern astronomers, Sirius is mentioned in the cosmology and myths of many ancient cultures. In 1836, European astronomer Friedrich Bessel measured an imperceptible wobble in the orbit of Sirius, he believed was caused by something pulling on the Dog Star. After studying Sirius astronomers determined the Dog Star is orbited by a fainter companion star about every fifty years.

American telescope designer Alvin Clark
American telescope designer Alvin Clark

This unseen companion star, called Sirius B, was finally seen around 1862 by American telescope designer Alvin Clark, through an 18.5-inch refractor which was the most powerful telescope in the world at the time. It would be half a century before astronomers at California’s Mount Wilson Observatory discovered Sirius B is, in fact, a new type of super dense star they called a white dwarf.

Dogon holy people use sticks to scratch a rough diagram of the Dog Star
Dogon holy people use sticks to scratch a rough diagram of the Dog Star

The puzzle concerning the Dog Star deepened in 1950, when two noted French anthropologists just back from what’s today the Republic of Mali, reported that the unseen companion star had been the celestial keystone of the Dogon tribe’s cosmology for centuries. The French scientists had lived with the Dogon tribe for over a decade, by which time they had come to learn their cosmology. They reported watching Dogon holy people use sticks to scratch a rough diagram of the Dog Star, with a companion star circling it in an elliptical orbit, along with a third body astronomers had not detected yet.

Dogon holy people had told the two men the elliptical orbit of the unseen companion star stood for fertility. They said the small companion star orbited the main star every fifty years and was called po. It was made of a metal the Dogon called sagala, according to Dogon holy people, and was brighter than iron and so heavy the population of Earth couldn’t lift it.

The mystery went even further when the Frenchmen indicated the cosmology of the Dogon goes far beyond the star Sirius. They discovered the Dogon believe Jupiter has four large moons, Saturn is ringed, and the Earth orbits the Sun.

The mystery is how can a tribal cosmology that predates the invention of the telescope be so near to the truth? Do Dogon holy people have some means of viewing the universe using divination or some type of psychic power?

Some scientists indicate the Dogon were probably not as primitive or as isolated as first reported. In fact, they indicate the traditional homelands of the tribe are close to ancient trade routes that once linked West Africa with ancient Egypt. They also border a major trade road that connected regions in Africa during ancient times, the Niger River. Timbuktu, the home of one of the greatest Muslim universities of 400 years ago, was once just south of their lands. All of these things lead scientists to believe the Dogon’s cosmology could be due to these facts or even just outrageous lying.

Alien visitors from the stars

The Dogon cosmology could be due to cultural interactions, but some investigators still point to the similarities between the real Sirius star system and the Dogon cosmology as a mystery. The Dogon, however, say there’s no mystery involved. Hundreds of years ago, they were visited by a race of beings from the Sirius star system, they call the nommo. This ancient race told them things about the cosmology of the universe before they returned to their home planet.

Very few scientists or people believe the Dogon were in fact visited by beings from the star system Sirius. There has been no forthcoming explanation, however, for how the Dogon possess astronomy knowledge concerning bodies they can’t possibly have seen. Enough knowledge according to reports to accurately sketch unseen star systems in the sand.

Watch this YouTube video on the Dogon tribe https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0oiYB5JQAg.

Can NASA astronomers detect extraterrestrial moons orbiting distant suns? Read this article to find out https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/31/searching-for-extraterrestrial-moons/.

Read about the latest discovery in the search for life beyond Earth https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/25/the-search-for-life-beyond-earth-takes-a-turn-at-jupiter/.

Read about the latest images of the solar system sent back by the Cassini spacecraft https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/cassini-spacecraft-show-views-of-the-solar-system-in-natural-color/.