(ORDO NEWS) — The Hubble Space Telescope has found a witness at the site of a star’s explosive death: a companion star previously hidden in the glare of its partner’s supernova.
This discovery is the first for a special type of supernova – those in which the star was deprived of all of its outer gas shell before the explosion.
This discovery provides a crucial insight into the binary nature of massive stars, and is also a potential prequel to the ultimate merger of companion stars that will propagate through the universe as gravitational waves pulsing through the very fabric of cosmic time.
Astronomers are discovering the signatures of various elements in supernova explosions. These elements are layered, like a bow before a supernova explosion. Hydrogen is found in the outermost layer of a star, and if hydrogen is not found in the aftermath of a supernova explosion, then it must have been removed before the explosion.
The cause of the loss of hydrogen has been a mystery, and astronomers have used Hubble to look for clues and test theories to explain these hydrogen-deprived supernovae.
New Hubble observations provide the best evidence to support the theory that an invisible companion star is sucking out a shell of gas from its partner star before exploding.
“This is the moment we’ve been waiting for: we’ve finally seen evidence for the binary progenitor of a completely separated supernova,” said astronomer Ory Fox of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., lead researcher on the Hubble Research Program. “. “The goal is to move this area of research from theory to data science and see what these systems really look like.”
The Fox team used the Hubble Wide Field Camera to study the region of supernova (SN) 2013ge in ultraviolet light, as well as previous Hubble observations at the Barbara A. Mikulski Archive of Space Telescopes (MAST).
Astronomers saw that the supernova’s light faded over time from 2016 to 2020, but another nearby source of ultraviolet radiation remained bright. This main source of ultraviolet radiation is what the team hypothesizes to be the surviving binary companion of SN 2013ge.
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