Two new cosmic explosions unveiled in sky survey analysis

Oct. 16, 2013 at 4:34 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 16 (UPI) -- Astronomers say software analysis of sky surveys created by telescopes in California has allowed them to link a supernova to the star from which it exploded.

The astronomical survey software system -- dubbed the intermediate Palomar Transient Factory or iPTF -- also pinpointed the first afterglow of an explosion called a gamma-ray burst that was detected by the Fermi satellite, they said.

The studies are reported in two papers published by The Astrophysical Journal Letter, led by researchers at the California Institute of Technology.

The first finding is the first time a star has been linked to the explosion of the kind of supernova called a Type Ib, yielding clues to how this supernova type is formed, a problem that has eluded scientists for years, study participants at the Carnegie Institution reported Wednesday.

The researchers detected a progenitor candidate for the explosion in Hubble Space Telescope imaging, linking the supernova to its predecessor star.

"Pinpointing a progenitor star at exactly the same location as a Type Ib supernova was the best way to test the theories about the genesis of this type of explosion," Carnegie's Mansi Kasliwal said. "Now we need to patiently wait for the supernova to fade away and see if the star disappears."

The second result of the analysis was the identification of a gamma ray burst afterglow called iPTF13bxl.

Gamma ray bursts are high-energy explosions that form some of the brightest celestial events, an often signify energy released during a supernova.

"The sophisticated intermediate Palomar Transient Factory software we used to identify iPTF13bxl now prepares us to locate about 10 gamma-ray bursts every year going forward," Carnegie researcher John Mulchaey said. "And future endeavors could help us identify other, fainter signatures, such as those accompanying the merger of binary neutron stars."

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