In research published today in the Astrophysical Journal, an Australian led team of astronomers has used radio telescopes in Australia and Chile to see inside the remains of a supernova.
“Our observations with the ATCA and ALMA radio telescopes have shown signs of something never seen before, located at the centre or the remnant. It could be a pulsar wind nebula, driven by the spinning neutron star, or pulsar, which astronomers have been searching for since 1987. It’s amazing that only now, with large telescopes like ALMA and the upgraded ATCA, we can peek through the bulk of debris ejected when the star exploded and see what’s hiding underneath."
“By introducing asymmetry into the explosion and adjusting the gas properties of the surrounding environment, we were able to reproduce a number of observed features from the real supernova such as the persistent one-sidedness in the radio images”, said Dr Toby Potter.
The time evolving model shows that the eastern (left) side of the expanding shock front expands more quickly than the other side, and generates more radio emission than its weaker counterpart. This effect becomes even more apparent as the shock collides into the equatorial ring, as observed in Hubble Space Telescope images of the supernova.
"Our simulation predicts that over time the faster shock will move beyond the ring first. When this happens, the lop-sidedness of radio asymmetry is expected to be reduced and may even swap sides.”
“The fact that the model matches the observations so well means that we now have a good handle on the physics of the expanding remnant and are beginning to understand the composition of the environment surrounding the supernova – which is a big piece of the puzzle solved in terms of how the remnant of SN1987A formed.”
The animation and images below are available for download from this link.
Dr Giovana Zanardo, ICRAR - UWA
Ph: +61 8 6488 7765 | M: +61 414 531 081
Professor Lister Staveley-Smith, ICRAR Science Director - UWA
Ph: +61 8 6488 4550 | M: +61 425 212 592
Pete Wheeler, ICRAR Media Contact
Ph: +61 8 6488 7771 | M: +61 423 982 018
David Stacey, UWA Media Manager
Ph: +61 8 6488 7977