Astronomers were finally able to track down the remnants of a star that exploded in 1987

Astronomers were finally able to track down the remnants of a star that exploded in 1987

Researchers have been looking hard for more than thirty years. But the end of this research may be near.

On February 24, 1987 something special happened. Astronomers have observed a bright starburst in the night sky, which can be seen with the naked eye even in the Southern Hemisphere. Since then, researchers have been searching diligently for the crushed pulp that should have been left behind. Astronomers are now finally tracking down the remnants of this star that exploded in 1987.

Mir over Supernova 1987A
On February 23, 1987, the light of the SN 1987A supernova reached Earth. The explosion occurred 170,000 light-years away in the so-called Large Magellanic Cloud. The supernova explosion was special, especially because it was the closest supernova nearly 400 years ago (since the 1604 Kepler supernova) that can be seen with the naked eye as well. The body soon became the most studied celestial body in the sky. What exactly happened? In the case of SN 1987A, a blue and white giant exploded. The diameter of the star was 40 times the diameter of the sun. SN 1987A reached a score of 2.8 on the Richter scale, which made the celestial body in the Southern Hemisphere visible with the naked eye.

As astronomers watched debris explode outside of the crime scene, they simultaneously searched for the collapsing remaining core: a neutron star. “For 34 years, astronomers have been digging in the stellar debris of SN 1987A in search of the neutron star we are expecting there,” said study leader Emanuele Greco. “Unfortunately, many of the evidence turned out to be a dead end. But our recent results are very promising.”

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Stellar wind level
With the help of NASA Chandra X-ray Observatory And the Nuclear Spectroscopy Telescope Kit (NuSTAR), the team found that relatively energy-saving X-rays from SN 1987A debris collide with surrounding materials. The team also found evidence of high-energy particles. This is interesting. A possible explanation for this energetic X-ray emission is the presence of the Stellar Wind Nebula. Fast spinning and magnetic neutron stars – called pulsars – produce a lighthouse-like beam that astronomers discover in the form of pulses. Stellar winds can develop when particles are accelerated in the electric field resulting from the rapid rotation of a neutron star with a strong magnetic field.

Left: A 3D computer simulation, based on Chandra data, of the collision of the SN 1987A debris with an ambient ring of matter. Right: the so-called stellar wind nebula, which is a network of particles and energy blown out by a neutron star (a spinning, highly magnetized neutron star). Photo: Chandra (x-ray): NASA / CXC / Univ. De Palermo / E. Greco. Illustration: INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Palermo / Salvatore Orlando

The study supports the argument for the Stellar Wind Nebula on a number of fronts. This, in turn, supports the idea that a neutron star has been left behind. “Astronomers have wondered if not enough time has passed for a pulsar to form, or even if SN 1987A created a black hole,” said researcher Marco Meselli. This has been a constant mystery for several decades. Therefore, we are very pleased to put this result and new information on the negotiating table. “

The smallest ever
If there is indeed a pulsar in the middle of SN 1987A, that too is very special. This is said to be the smallest pulsar ever found. “It would be unprecedented to see a pulsar from its birth,” said researcher Salvatore Orlando. “It would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study the evolution of a small pulsar.”

Continue searching
As is often the case, more data is needed to reinforce the arguments for the stellar wind nebula. The increase in radio waves accompanied by an increase in the relatively high-energy X-rays in future observations would oppose this idea. On the other hand, if astronomers noticed a drop in high-energy X-rays, then a pulsating wind nebula would be confirmed.

So the result remains exciting for some time. The stellar debris surrounding the pulsar makes it extremely difficult to see through the dust at this point. However, according to the researchers, this material will become more popular in the coming years. Hence, a pulsar resurgence would be expected in approximately ten years. Hence the existence of a neutron star may or may not be confirmed.

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