January 28, 2014

What Interstellar Blast Is Lighting Up The Sky?

The solar system saw an epic blast on January 21. The Swift Gamma-Ray Burst mission’s Ultraviolet/Optical telescope captured a type Ia supernova in the neighboring galaxy M82. This is the nearest optical supernova in over 20 years. The Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory are now studying the stellar explosion. However, thick interstellar dust clouds in the galaxy are thinning the light. But this is also a good thing because it allows scientists to study how this interstellar dust affects light. Also, the incredible light from the blast is like a “standard candles” by which to explore the distant universe. What caused the supernova? One of two scenarios. Either it was a white dwarf star that sucked matter from its normal host star until it met its threshold and exploded. Or there were two white dwarfs in a binary system that spiraled inward and collided. The supernova will continue to brighten into the first week of February, at which time is will be able to be seen with binoculars.

[ Read the Article: Nearby Type Ia Supernova Caught In The Act ]

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