(ORDO NEWS) — A group of astronomers observed what they believe to be a neutron star, born after a supernova explosion, first discovered in 1987 in a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, 170,000 light-years from Earth, dubbed SN 1987A.
Until now, astronomers weren’t sure if a neutron star survived a powerful event and didn’t collapse with itself to form a black hole – but a new article published last week in The Astrophysical Journal suggests it exists.
This means that the neutron star is no older than 33 years old.
If confirmed by astronomers, it will be the youngest neutron star known to mankind, Astronomy reports . The youngest supernova remnant to date is 330-year-old Cassiopeia A, about 11,000 light-years from Earth inside the Milky Way.
By analyzing high-resolution imagery from the Atacama Large Millimeter / Submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, the team of astronomers was able to get a closer look at what remained after SN 1987A.
They discovered a hot “drop” inside the core of the supernova, probably a gas cloud enveloping a neutron star. The star itself is too small to be detected directly, and is extremely dense – 1.4 times the mass of the Sun within a sphere that is only 25 kilometers in diameter.
“We were very surprised to see this hot blob obscured by a thick cloud of dust in supernova remnants,” said Mikako Matsuura of Cardiff University, who made the ALMA discovery, in a statement.
The ALMA team’s discovery confirms a theoretical study published last week.
“There is something in the cloud that heats up the dust and makes it shine. That is why we assumed there was a neutron star hiding inside the dust cloud, ”added Matsuura.
“Despite the extreme complexity of a supernova explosion and the extreme conditions that prevail inside a neutron star, the discovery of a hot blob is confirmation of several theoretical calculations,” said lead author Dani Page, an astrophysicist at the University of Mexico.
The star also turned out to be extremely bright, thanks in large part to its estimated temperature of about five million degrees Celsius.
Time will pass before the existence of a star is confirmed. The dust and gas around the supernova must cool even further for astronomers to say with confidence that this extremely young star does exist.
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