Astronomers search through supernova remnants for 'stellar survivor'

By Andrew V. Pestano  |  March 30, 2017 at 2:43 PM
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March 30 (UPI) -- NASA on Thursday said astronomers are using the Hubble Space Telescope to observe the remnants of a supernova explosion, which could lead to the discovery of a "stellar survivor."

The astronomers used the Hubble to analyze supernova remnant SNR 0509-68.7, also known as N103B, which is about 160,000 light-years away from Earth in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a galaxy neighboring the Milky Way.

In a statement, the Space Telescope Science Institute said that of all varieties of exploding stars, Type Ia -- from which N103B occurred -- is "the most intriguing."

"Their predictable brightness lets astronomers measure the expansion of the universe, which led to the discovery of dark energy. Yet the cause of these supernovae remains a mystery. Do they happen when two white dwarf stars collide? Or does a single white dwarf gorge on gases stolen from a companion star until bursting?" the STSI said in a press release. "If the second theory is true, the normal star should survive."

The STSI said that astronomers used the Hubble to search through the "gauzy" remains of N103B, adding that they found a sun-like star that showing signs of being associated with the supernova.

The STSI said that though N103B resulted from a Type Ia supernova, the cause for such supernovae remain a mystery.

"One possibility would leave behind a stellar survivor, and astronomers have identified a possible candidate," STSI added.

The discovery of a "stellar survivor" could result in the end of the ongoing discussion theorizing the origins of the Type Ia supernova. The status of the candidate for N103B's companion star has not yet been confirmed.

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