Astronomer snaps 'one in 100 million' shot of massive exploding star

Feb 23, 2018, 03:31
Astronomer snaps 'one in 100 million' shot of massive exploding star

"This result suggests that it is appropriate to decouple the treatment of the shock propagation from the unknown mechanism that triggers the explosion".

On a September night in Argentina, amateur astronomer Victor Buso took his camera outside, mounted it on a 16-inch telescope and trained it on a spiral galaxy some 80 million light-years from Earth.

"Professional astronomers have always been searching for such an event", says Alex Filippenko, co-author of a study describing the rare occurrence.

The event officially came to be known as SN 2016gkg, and its afterglow was visible in the sky for about two months after the explosion.

Buso sent the observations to UC Berkeley and observations at the Lick and Keck observatories have now confirmed Buso was the first human to have caught the flash of a pressure wave from the exploding core of a dying star hitting the gas at its surface.

This time he discovered the pixel had become a brilliant, full supernova. He chose to send some photos to another amateur, Sebastian Otero, a member of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) in order to make sure that the odd event was a supernova. "But, Victor Buso caught the exact minutes when the supernova was being born". Till now what the scientists have observed about the behavior of supernova, match with their expectations.

He was taking 20-second exposure images and after some time, he saw that there were some photos that were different than the online images coming from other observatories.

Further study of the star's brilliant death may provide valuable clues to the physical structure of supermassive stars just before their flashy demise.

Researchers quickly joined in on the analysis, but as Griggs reports, Melina Bersten, researcher at the Instituto de Astrofísica de La Plata in Argentina realized the significance of the find.

Amateur astronomers have made some pretty awesome observations in the past, including asteroids striking Jupiter, a brand-new system of four Super-Earth exoplanets, and just recently, the rediscovery of a NASA satellite long thought lost. He further added that Buso has provided some exceptional data and this finding also shows a flawless example of partnership work between professional astronomers and amateur astronomer.

The original star, they say, may have weighed in around 20 solar masses - although it had probably shrunk to just five solar masses before it went supernova, as the gravitational tug of its companion star siphoned mass away. He watched it grow brighter over time, capturing the birth of a supernova. Folatelli, who helped Bersten in the work stated, "I would hope the amateur astronomers are encouraged to do more of this".

It's like winning the cosmic lottery.

It may be noted that Filippenko's group included many undergraduate amateur astronomers and student and is supported by the Christopher R. Redlich Fund, Gary and Cynthia Bengier, the TABASGO Foundation. Scientists and other professional astronomers have long wanted to observe the beginning of a star's explosion - a type of information that, according to the veteran astronomer, can't be obtained in any other way.