(ORDO NEWS) — The astonishing burst of ultraviolet radiation from an exploding white dwarf has been spotted by astronomers for the second time and may provide researchers with important clues about what is driving the death of these ancient stars.
Researchers became aware of this unusual supernova, called SN2019yvq, last December, just a day after the explosion. Within hours, scientists classified the event as a Type Ia supernova – an unusual stellar event, at least usually, except that this time it was accompanied by an extremely rare burst of ultraviolet light.
“These are some of the most common explosions in the universe,” says astrophysicist Adam Miller of Northwestern University.
“But what’s special is the ultraviolet flash. Astronomers have searched for it for years and never found it. As far as we know, this is only the second time an ultraviolet flare has been observed from a Type Ia supernova.”
SN2019yvq exploded in a galaxy about 140 million light-years from Earth, with a rare ultraviolet flare observed over the next few days.
As for what lurks behind the strange light, scientists say they’re not sure yet because white dwarfs – depleted stellar remnants that are usually relatively cool – usually do not heat up enough to generate the heat required for such a burst of ultraviolet light.
Potentially, the researchers believe, the white dwarf could become unstable after absorbing stellar material from a companion star in a binary system when material collided between them, which caused an ultraviolet flash.
Alternatively, the flare could result from a sharp increase in heat due to mixing between the inner core of the white dwarf and its outer layers.
Finally, a merger of two white dwarfs with the ultraviolet flare SN2019yvq is possible, when the ejected material from both stars came into contact with each other.
While we cannot be sure which explanation best matches what happened SN 2019 yvq, the picture is expected to become clearer.
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