Home > Astronomy, Astrophysics, General Astronomy, Supernovae > Super-Freezer Supernova 1987A Is A Dust Factory

Super-Freezer Supernova 1987A Is A Dust Factory


Hubble Space Telescope image of supernova 1987A. Credit: ESA, NASA, P. Challis and R. Kirshner

Hubble Space Telescope image of supernova 1987A. Credit: ESA, NASA, P. Challis and R. Kirshner

Surprisingly low temperatures detected in the remnant of the supernova 1987A may explain the mystery of why space is so abundant with dust grains and molecules. The results will be presented by Dr Mikako Matsuura at the National Astronomy Meeting 2013 in St Andrews on Friday 5 July.

In 1987, an explosion of a massive star was detected in our neighbouring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud, just 170,000 light years away. This supernova, dubbed 1987A, released approximately thousand million times more energy than that emitted by the Sun in one year. Twenty five years later, an international team of astronomers has used the Herschel Space Observatory and Atacama Millimeter and Submillimeter Array (ALMA) to study the supernova remnant. They found a vast reservoir of unexpectedly cold molecules and dust.

“The powerful explosion we saw in 1987 scattered elements made by star into space in the form of a very hot plasma. The gas has now cooled down to temperatures between -250 to -170 degrees Celsius. That’s surprisingly cold, comparable to the icy surface of Pluto at the edge of our Solar System. The gas has formed molecules and some has even condensed into solid grains of dust. The supernova has now become a super freezer!” said Dr Matsuura.

Full Story: http://www.ras.org.uk/news-and-press/224-news-2013/2311-super-freezer-supernova-1987a-is-a-dust-factory

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