January 24, 2013
Powerful 1901 Star Explosion Recreated Using 3D
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe OnlineA European team of astronomers have reconstructed a powerful explosion of a nova, or what was left of the star after it exploded in 1901. The Spanish and Estonian team used 3D modeling to reconstruct the explosion in the star GK Persei, and published their results in the Astrophysical Journal.
Star GK Persei, or Nova Persei 1901, sits just 1,300 light years away from Earth, and the star first gave off the explosion on February 21st, 1901. On that day, astronomers saw how its brightness suddenly increased to such an extent that it became one of the brightest stars in the skies.
The explosion created remaining material, made up of gaseous knots, which became visible in 1916.
"From then the visual spectacle has been similar to that of a firework display seen in slow motion," Miguel Santander, researcher at the Spanish National Observatory and coauthor of the study, said in a statement.
The team gathered images, and measured the movements of more than 200 knots as well as the radial velocity using the Doppler effect. This effect allows to determine if the knots are getting closer, or moving further away from us.
Using this technique allowed the European astronomers to create a three dimensional map of the nova, and analyze its dynamic.
"Such data are rarely available in astrophysics because as a general rule apparent expansion or, in other words, in the layout of the sky, the majority of objects cannot be seen,", Romano Corradi, another author from the Astrophysics Institute of the Canary Islands, said.
The result from the work is that the gas seems to be moving further away in a ballistic, or free manner, and is hardly slowing down, according to lead author Tiina Liimets, of the Tartu Observatory in Estonia. Liiments said that the results are contrary to what previous studies had found.
Previously, scientists thought that the gas from the explosion would slow down "significantly" due to the large quantity of matter in its path that the star had expelled previously. However, the gas' speed remained between a range of 370 and 620 miles per second.
Before the 1901 explosion, more than one-hundred-thousand years ago, the star had already transformed from a red giant to a white dwarf. This process expelled its external layers forming a planetary nebula, which is a gas cloud in which the nova is now growing in 3D.