When a large star comes to the end of its life, it explodes with an enormous stream of energy called a supernova. As the shock wave from the explosion spreads into space, it creates a remnation that could last for thousands of years. One such remnning was viewed by the Hubble Space Telescope, and researchers traced its origins back to the supernova that occurred 1,7,000 years ago.
Compared images taken 10 years in between
To calculate the age of 1E 0102.2-7219, Hubble researchers matched images taken 10 years in between. By comparing the two, they were able to see that clusters of ejekta (nodes) spread over time.
By running this speed backwards, the time when the supernova should occur can be calculated. This result differs from previous attempts to determine the exact age of the residue using data from different cameras. In addition, the new result using data from the camera provides a more accurate value.
Danny Milisavljevic, research team leader at Purdue University, said: “A previous study compared images years in between with two different cameras in Hubble, Wide Area PlanetAry Camera 2 and Advanced Camera (ACS). But our work compares the data received with acs, the same camera, to make the comparison much more robust; it was much easier to watch the knots using the same instrument. The ability to make such a clear comparison between images taken between images taken 10 years ago is a proof of Hubble’s longevity.”
When the supernova occurred, it launched the star’s crushed heart (a neutron star) into space. Researchers estimate that the neutron star moves more than 2 million miles per hour.
“It’s pretty fast and at the extreme end of how fast we think a neutron star can move,” said John Banovetz, team leader on the issue.
Researchers have identified an object that could be the neutron star in question, but they are not sure if it is the object they are looking for yet.
“New research questions whether the object is actually the surviving neutron star of the supernova explosion. This is and supports a small cluster of supernova ejektas that potentially only light up,” explains Banowetz.