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“Scientists Solve Mystery of Cosmic Explosion: Neutron Star Discovered at Heart of Supernova”

Scientists Solve Mystery of Cosmic Explosion: Neutron Star Discovered at Heart of Supernova

In a groundbreaking discovery, scientists have finally solved the mystery surrounding a cosmic explosion that occurred in February 1987. The explosion, known as SN 1987A, took place in a neighboring galaxy and was visible from Earth for four months. It shone with the power of 100 million suns, leaving behind a trail of debris that puzzled astronomers for decades. However, new results confirm that at the heart of this celestial event lies a neutron star, an incredibly dense object that weighs 10 million tonnes per teaspoon.

The research team’s findings have been hailed as the resolution of a long-standing murder mystery. Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock, presenter of BBC Sky at Night, expressed her excitement, stating, “It is about the death of a star and the mystery has been what lies in the shrouds of dust around what remains.” The explosion originated from a massive star, 20 times the mass of our Sun, known as a blue supergiant. This supernova, named SN 1987A by astronomers, was the first visible to the naked eye in 400 years. Its details had been captured and recorded by astronomers before its spectacular demise.

SN 1987A provided astronomers with a unique opportunity to study the intricacies of stellar death. However, one crucial piece of the puzzle remained missing: what remained at the core of the explosion? According to current theories, stars collapse when they exhaust their nuclear fuel, resulting in the formation of either a neutron star or a black hole. Determining which one was present in SN 1987A is essential for understanding how heavy elements necessary for life are spread throughout the Universe.

The recent study published in the journal Science presents strong evidence pointing towards a neutron star at the heart of SN 1987A. Led by Professor Claes Fransson of Stockholm University, the research team was able to probe the center of the supernova and confirm the creation of a compact source of ionizing radiation, most likely a neutron star. This discovery marks the first time scientists have been able to verify predictions about the aftermath of such a cataclysmic event.

The data collected suggests that the surface temperature of the neutron star would be around a million degrees, having cooled down from an initial temperature of approximately 100 billion degrees. The team plans to continue monitoring the supernova area to gather more information about the explosion’s precise details. Additionally, they hope to study this “baby” neutron star and compare it with older ones to gain insights into the evolution of these cosmic heavyweights over time.

The breakthrough in solving this cosmic mystery was made possible by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). As the most powerful space observatory ever built, the JWST’s infrared capabilities allowed scientists to see through the space dust that had previously obstructed their view. Professor Mike Barlow of UCL describes the JWST’s findings as “the first direct evidence” of a neutron star at the heart of SN 1987A. After more than 30 years of speculation, it is truly exciting that this enigma has finally been resolved.

Although there is no direct image of the neutron star itself, the data collected by the JWST provides compelling evidence supporting its existence. Light from atoms of argon and sulfur, found within the supernova, could only have been produced by powerful radiation emitted by a neutron star. Dr. Robert Massey of the Royal Astronomical Society affirms that these readings leave little room for alternative explanations.

While astronomers may not yet have the smoking gun in this murder mystery, they certainly have the smoke from the gun. The discovery of a neutron star at the heart of SN 1987A opens up new avenues for studying these intriguing objects in their early stages of life. With continued advancements in technology and further observations, scientists hope to gain a closer look at these cosmic heavyweights and unravel the mysteries they hold.

In conclusion, the recent breakthrough in identifying a neutron star at the center of SN 1987A marks a significant milestone in our understanding of stellar death. This discovery not only solves a long-standing cosmic mystery but also provides valuable insights into the formation and distribution of heavy elements necessary for life. As scientists continue to explore the depths of the Universe, they are one step closer to unraveling its secrets.


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