This Is the Remnant of a Star That Exploded 1,700 Years Ago

This portrait from the Hubble Space Telescope shows the gaseous remains of an exploded massive star that erupted approximately 1,700 years ago. The stellar corpse, a supernova remnant named 1E 0102.2-7219, experienced its demise in the small Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way. NASA, ESA, STScI and J. Banovetz and D. Milisavljevic (Purdue University)

When a large star reaches the end of its life, it explodes in a huge burst of energy known as a supernova. When the shock wave from the explosion travels into space, it creates a remnant that can last for thousands of years. One such remnant was imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope, and researchers have traced its origin to a supernova that occurred 1,700 years ago.

To determine the age of the remainder 1E 0102.2-7219, the Hubble researchers compared images of it every 10 years. By comparing the two, they could see how clumps of ejecta (or knots) spread over time. And by running that rate backwards, they can determine when the supernova must have occurred.

This finding differs from previous attempts to determine the age of the remainder using data from different cameras. By using data from the same camera, the new result is more accurate.

“A previous study compared images taken years apart with two different cameras on Hubble, the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 and the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS),” said Danny Milisavljevic, head of the Purdue research team University, in a statement. “However, our study compares data that was recorded with the same camera, the ACS, which makes the comparison much more robust. The nodes were much easier to trace with the same instrument. It’s testament to Hubble’s longevity that we can so cleanly compare images taken 10 years apart. “

When the supernova occurred, it also sent the star’s crushed heart – a neutron star – into space. The researchers estimate that the neutron star is moving at more than 2 million miles per hour.

“That’s pretty fast and at the extreme end of the speed at which a neutron star can move, even if it got a kick from the supernova explosion,” said teammate John Banovetz.

The researchers have identified an object that may be the neutron star in question, but are unsure if it is definitely the object they are looking for.

“Newer studies question whether the object is actually the surviving neutron star of the supernova explosion. It is possibly just a compact chunk of supernova ejecta that has been illuminated, and our results generally support that conclusion, ”said Banowetz.

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