Researchers are claiming that they were recently witnesses to the birth of a dead star – a neutron star.
During observations conducted on the supernova called 2012au, scientists detected large amounts of charged oxygen and sulfur atoms as they dispersed from the explosion at a speed of more than 2000 kilometers per second. This occurrence indicates that gas surrounding the remains of the dead star is becoming lit by a pulsar. A pulsar is a neutron star that is rapidly spinning and emitting large amounts of radiation at the same time.
Scientists claim that all of this is strong evidence that a neutron star has been born. The important thing is that the scientists were able to follow the transformation of the supernova into the neutron star. This, in turn, allows astronomers the chance to test whether their theories about supernovas and the aftermath of their creation are correct.
The supernova 2012au was spotted in 2012. It is located some 70 million light-years away from Earth. As the star was unable to produce enough energy to support its own weight it exploded, and as the star’s core collapsed the ensuing explosions created a large neutron star in its place.
Soon scientists started monitoring the supernova, and surprisingly it started fading at a much lower rate than other supernovas of similar proportions. The theory is that the pulsar that was left in the wake of the initial explosion contributed energy which allowed the lights to be visible for a longer time.
Another possible explanation is that the dead star’s outer layers crashed into atoms of hydrogen that were floating between the star and then this, in turn, allowed the supernova to brighten up again.
Six years later, the supernova is still bright enough to be seen from Earth. Interestingly, researchers were unable to spot any hydrogen around the supernova. What researchers were able to find was ionized oxygen and sulfur atoms leaving the scene of the explosion at 2000 kilometers per hour. Because of this, an inner shell of ejected gas is formed. This occurs when heavier atoms trail hydrogen atoms as they leave the supernova explosion.
This is not the first time astronomers are witnesses to occurrences such as this. The most well-known explosion that occurred in the Milky Way occurred in the Crab Nebula. There, a supernova exploded during 1054. If this, in fact, is what is happening to the supernova 2012au it is the first time that it has been seen outside of the Milky Way, especially so soon after an explosion.
Still, there is very little data about what happens between an explosion and the various remnant stages. If the recent findings turn out to be true, then scientists have an example of how a supernova behaves in its early stages. Six years after its occurrence in fact.
Predictions are in place as to how the lights of the supernova may change over the coming years and now only time can tell whether those predictions are correct and whether a pulsar is somewhere in the dead stars remains.