New type of massive explosion explains mystery star


IMAGE: The star SMSS J200322.54-114203.3. (centre, with crosshairs) in the south-eastern corner of the constellation Aquila (the Eagle) near the border with Capricornus and Sagittarius.
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Credit: Da Costa/SkyMapper

A massive explosion from a formerly unidentified source – 10 times more energetic than a supernova – might be the response to a 13-billion-year-old Milky Way mystery.

Astronomers led by David Yong, Gary Da Costa and Chiaki Kobayashi from Australia’s ARC Centre of Excellence in All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (ASTRO 3D) based at the Australian National University (ANU) have actually possibly found the very first proof of the damage of a collapsed quickly spinning star – a phenomenon they refer to as a “magneto-rotational hypernova”.

The formerly unidentified type of catastrophe – which happened hardly a billion years after the Big Bang – is the most likely description for the existence of abnormally high quantities of some components found in another very ancient and “primitive” Milky Way star.

That star, called SMSS J200322.54-114203.3, consists of bigger quantities of metal components, consisting of zinc, uranium, europium and perhaps gold, than others of the exact same age.

Neutron star mergers – the accepted sources of the product required to create them – are inadequate to discuss their existence.

The astronomers determine that just the violent collapse of an extremely early star – enhanced by fast rotation and the existence of a strong electromagnetic field – can represent the extra neutrons needed.

The research study is released today in the journal Nature.

“The star we’re looking at has an iron-to-hydrogen ratio about 3000 times lower than the Sun – which means it is a very rare: what we call an extremely metal-poor star,” stated Dr Yong, who is based at the ANU.

“However, the fact that it contains much larger than expected amounts of some heavier elements means that it is even rarer – a real needle in a haystack.”

The very first stars in deep space were made practically totally of hydrogen and helium. At length, they collapsed and took off, becoming neutron stars or black holes, producing much heavier components which ended up being integrated in small quantities into the next generation of stars – the earliest still out there.

Rates and energies of these star deaths have actually ended up being popular in the last few years, so the quantity of heavy components they produce is well determined. And, for SMSS J200322.54-114203.3, the amounts simply do not accumulate.

“The extra amounts of these elements had to come from somewhere,” stated Associate Professor Chiaki Kobayashi from the University of Hertfordshire, UK.

“We now find the observational evidence for the first time directly indicating that there was a different kind of hypernova producing all stable elements in the periodic table at once — a core-collapse explosion of a fast-spinning strongly-magnetized massive star. It is the only thing that explains the results.”

Hypernovae have actually been understood considering that the late 1990s. However, this is the very first time one integrating both fast rotation and strong magnetism has actually been found.

“It’s an explosive death for the star,” stated Dr Yong. “We calculate that 13 billion-years ago J200322.54-114203.3 formed out of a chemical soup that contained the remains of this type of hypernova. No one’s ever found this phenomenon before.”

J200322.54-114203.3 lies 7500 light-years from the Sun, and orbits in the halo of the Milky Way.

Another co-author, Nobel Laureate and ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt, included, “The high zinc abundance is definite marker of a hypernova, a very energetic supernova.”

Head of the First Stars group in ASTRO 3D, Professor Gary Da Costa from ANU, discussed that the star was initially determined by a task called the SkyMapper study of the southern sky.

“The star was first identified as extremely metal-poor using SkyMapper and the ANU 2.3m telescope at Siding Spring Observatory in western NSW,” he stated. “Detailed observations were then obtained with the European Southern Observatory 8m Very Large Telescope in Chile.”

ASTRO 3D director, Professor Lisa Kewley, commented: “This is an extremely important discovery that reveals a new pathway for the formation of heavy elements in the infant universe.”

Other members of the research study group are based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States, Stockholm University in Sweden, the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Germany, Italy’s Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica, and Australia’s University of New South Wales.


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