Scientists have confirmed for the first time that a star which has 20 times the mass of the Sun exploded into a gigantic supernova. This star was thought to have been the biggest in existence. It belongs to the Wolf-Rayet class, which is considered the largest group of stars that are in existence but it was huge even for them. It was located 360 million light years away in the constellation of Bootes when astronomers were able to catch sight of it only a few hours after it burst into colossal supernova status and they labeled it SN 2013cu.
The observations that have been made are thought to be a discovery in the self-destructiveness of massive stars prior to the supernova phase. These findings were recently printed up in the science journal Nature by astronomers.
The supernova was able to be seen due to new developments in intergalactic observation abilities which have been created at the United States Department of Energy. Because of these, astronomers are now able to watch supernovae such as SN 2013cu in almost actual time. This is something that was formerly thought to be impossible due to imaging technology limitations.
The utter power of explosions of comparable supernovae first discovered back in the late 1980’s, formerly made it impossible to examine the cause of the blast as it ultimately propelled too much intergalactic material in the way of observation. However due to the new technology created, scientists were able to see the supernova as it began forming and watched as much as possible.
The robotic telescopes being used are able to ceaselessly look for new stars and supernovae which could be in progress. Once they discover something, they send out signs to fellow observatories all over the world so they all can align up on the same coordinates to collect even more information of the same occurrence.
This is how SN 2013cu was first found. It was picked up even before its shock-wave surpassed cosmic winds that were left over by the star so astronomers could determine the nature of the instigating star.
The Wolf-Rayet class of massive stars is considered to be very rare and is commonly hidden by other stars, asteroids, and planetoids. Because of this, there is not much known about the giant stars except for their huge size, including how they are made and how they die.
Like with any kind of star, this monster spent its entire life blending together hydrogen elements and making the heftier helium compound. This resulted in a fusion reaction of energy counteracting the large gravity amount to stop the star from collapsing in on itself. As hydrogen ran out, the blend continued with smaller trace elements that made a core of iron so thick that any more fusion was eventually impossible. Finally the massive star went cold and imploded.
The strength of the subatomic elements collapsing on itself released energy that created the supernova, a blast that was so strong it temporarily outshone the whole galaxy in brilliance and glow. The energy which was released from the explosion, that only lasted a few hours, was equal to what the Sun would give off over its entire life lasting through billions of years.
The subsequent shock-wave sent out star contents and huge amounts of cosmic debris and gas all at speeds that reached one tenth of the speed of light. This enormous ejection of heavy chemical space components all reacting to each other led numerous scientists to hypothesize that this could have been the way that the building blocks of life originated.
Scientists confirmed for the first time that a star which has 20 times the mass of the Sun exploded into a gigantic supernova and this star was thought to have been the biggest in existence.
By Kimberly Ruble