Fledgling Supernova Remnant Reveals Neutron Star’s Secrets


Image: X-ray: NASA/CXC/UW-Madison/S. Heinz et al; Optical: DSS; Radio: CSIRO/ATNF/ATCA

Image: X-ray: NASA/CXC/UW-Madison/S. Heinz et al; Optical: DSS; Radio: CSIRO/ATNF/ATCA

With the help of NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Australia Telescope Compact Array, an international team of astronomers has identified the glowing wreck of a star that exploded a mere 2,500 years ago — the blink of an eye in astronomical terms.

The observations, made by a team led by UW-Madison astronomy professor Sebastian Heinz, reveal an astrophysical novelty of the Milky Way: a glowing nebula created when the star exploded and, inside of it, the collapsed core of the exploded star, a neutron star, still clinging to its former companion star. It is the only known example of such a system in our galaxy.

The new observations are reported Dec. 3 in the Astrophysical Journal and are important because they provide a unique laboratory to test key theories of stellar evolution, especially about the stage of a star’s life just after most of it has been obliterated in a supernova explosion.

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  1. December 6, 2013 at 4:26 am
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