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Astronomers spot ‘fragments’ of supernova debris moving at full speed towards the edge of the Milky Way

A new study reports that a piece of stellar fragments is moving toward the edge of our Milky Way galaxy at nearly 2 million miles per hour (3.2 million kilometers per hour).

Astronomers from Boston University discovered a fast-moving star known as LP 40-365, about 2,000 light-years from Earth, but, in fact, this cosmic body is no longer a star, but rather the remnants of a super-dense stellar body called a white dwarf that survived in the form of fragments. , from a violent explosion to a supernova.

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Astronomers identified it as a piece of stellar fragments, left over when a more massive star was subjected to a catastrophic supernova.

This explosion was so powerful that it pushed LP 40-365 out into interstellar space so that it was on target to leave the Milky Way completely, having achieved enough velocity to escape the gravitational pull of the galaxy well.

LP 40-365 travels at a superfast speed of about 852 kilometers per second (529 miles), and thus belongs to a unique type of fast-moving star, not only among the fastest stars known to astronomers, but also among the richest in minerals.

“Experiencing a partial explosion and still being alive is absolutely amazing and unique, and it’s only in the past few years that we’ve started to believe that this type of star could exist,” said astronomer Odelia Puterman of Boston University.

Most ultrafast stars in the Milky Way tend to be dead, such as white dwarfs and neutron stars. This is because they are more likely to experience events violent enough to propel them into space, in the case of dead stars, generally this is supernova explosions.

The research team used data from the Hubble Space Telescope and NASA’s TESS telescope, which is dedicated to searching for exoplanets, to take a closer look at these stellar remnants. They argue that new observations of these “stellar fragments” may provide more data on other stars with similar pasts.

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By analyzing the data, the scientists discovered that LP 40-365 is not only ejected from the galaxy, but also rotates on its way, changing its brightness every 8.9 hours.

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Unravel a mystery

Astronomer JJ Hermes from Boston University said: “We dug a little deeper to find out why this star is getting brighter, over and over again, and dimmer, and the simplest explanation is that we see something on its surface rotating in and out of view every nine hours.”

This, in and of itself, is not unusual, as all stars rotate, but a star’s 8.9-hour rotation through the galaxy by a supernova appears strangely slow. Scientists were able to use this to reconstruct information about how the supernova occurred.

The scientists explained: “We know, based on previous research, that LP 40-365 was most likely part of a binary containing a large white dwarf, likely more than 1.3 times the mass of the Sun. This is very, very close to a non-rotating mass. It’s called the Chandrasekhar limit, which is about 1.4 times the mass of the Sun. If a white dwarf gains more mass, it becomes unstable, and usually goes astoundingly into an explosion, in what’s known as a Type Ia supernova.”

The team continued: “The star gains this mass by being removed from a companion binary star, orbiting closely enough that its outer matter is absorbed by the white dwarf’s gravitational field. Many white dwarfs have binary companion stars, and LP 40-365, as its composition suggests, was And its speed, is part of such a binary system.”

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The astronomers note that LP 40-365 is now on its escape path and will leave the galactic disk in about 5.3 million years.

The fate of the other star within the binary system is still a guess, and it is also possible that it will be kicked away, but in another direction. It could be anywhere now. But identifying LP 40-365 can help us better understand how these energetic events occur, how they produce heavy elements, and the properties of their stellar fragments.

Source: Science Alert