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Last Updated : Aug 01, 2020 01:43 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Astronomers find signs of 'missing' neutron star in heart of Supernova 1987A

The study brings new insight into the 33-year-old mystery, when astronomers saw one of the brightest star explosions in the night sky and have since searched for leftovers from the blast

Astronomers researching the Supernova 1987A (SN 1987A) have found “compelling” insight to solidify their hypothesis that a neutron star is “hiding deep inside” the remains of the exploded star. If proved, this would be the youngest known neutron star to date.

Two teams of astronomers observed the SN 1987A at Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), and followed this with a study to support their argument, Science X Daily (phys.org) reported.

The study brings new insight into the 33-year-old mystery, when astronomers on February 23, 1987, saw one of the brightest star explosions in the night sky create the SN 1987A, and have since searched for leftovers from the blast.


The argument that a neutron star is within the collapsed star’s centre was a popular one since neutrinos were detected on Earth on the day of the explosion, but there was no evidence and the scientific community held out hope for clarity someday, it added.

Among the first indicators of the “missing” neutron star were recent observations from the ALMA radio telescope which provided high-resolution images of a “hot blob” in the supernova’s dusty core, the report said.

“We were very surprised to see this warm blob made by a thick cloud of dust in the supernova remnant. There has to be something in the cloud that has heated up the dust and which makes it shine. That's why we suggested that there is a neutron star hiding inside the dust cloud,” Mikako Matsuura, from Cardiff University and a member of the team that found the blob told the publication.

Matsuura added that while excited about the result they were still uncertain because the blob appeared to be “too bright”. “…but then Dany Page and his team published a study that indicated that the neutron star can indeed be this bright because it is so very young," Matsuura added.

Page is an astrophysicist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and has researched the SN 1987A from the beginning, calling it “one of the biggest events in my life that made me change the course of my career to try to solve this mystery.”

The study by Page and his team was published in The Astrophysical Journal, and strongly supports the ALMA team’s findings. "In spite of the supreme complexity of a supernova explosion and the extreme conditions reigning in the interior of a neutron star, the detection of a warm blob of dust is a confirmation of several predictions," Page explained.

These predictions were location (the blob is exactly where astronomers think the neutron star would be), and temperature of the neutron star (predicted to be around 5 million degrees Celsius, thus explaining the brightness).

To further solidify proof, astronomers would require a picture of the neutron star itself, but it may take a few more decades till the SN 1987A settles and remnants become more transparent.
First Published on Aug 1, 2020 01:43 pm