Feeds

Astronomers watch supernova go bang

Detailed, real-time data

SANS - Survey on application security programs

Scientists have, for the first time, been able to watch a star go supernova in real time, thanks to NASA's Swift satellite.

The event began back in February, when the Swift satellite, designed to detect and respond to a gamma ray burst (GRB) within 20 to 70 seconds, first sounded the alarm. The burst it had spotted lasted much longer than normal, continuing for around 40 minutes. Because of this, the observatory was able to capture data using all three of its instrument sets.

Swift carries three instruments: the Burst Alert Telescope (BAT), the X-Ray telescope, and the Optical and UV telescope. Each one gives astronomers more accurate data to help pinpoint the source of gamma rays. The satellite also alerts other orbital and ground based observatories, so they can view the event too.

"This GRB was the most extraordinary evolving object yet seen by Swift," said Dr Paul O'Brien from the University of Leicester.

This burst was also much closer than normal, and the researchers identified it as originating in a star-forming galaxy about 440m light years away, towards the constellation Aries. The team soon realised they were witnessing the first stages of the death of a star.

Dr O'Brien continued: "The three on-board telescopes all detected a slowly brightening then fading object. The results suggest a broad jet expanded into the surroundings, but it was accompanied by a slower-moving and incredibly hot - two million degree - bubble of gas produced from the shock-wave of the exploding star."

Dr Andrew Levan, University of Hertfordshire, said: "As well as studying the early evolution of the supernova for the first time these observations also show how the material ejected in the explosion evolve in the following days and weeks, the timescales on which supernovae are normally studied."

The observations revealed that this supernova was brighter than most, but dimmer than those usually associated with gamma ray bursts.

A gamma ray burst is associated either with the collapse of a massive star or with the collision of two stars. The bursts are normally very short lived - lasting from less than a second to just a few minutes.

Dr Levan said understanding the behaviour of this "transition object" would help scientists understand what it is about a star that produces a gamma ray burst.

"Usually these events are not detected until after the supernova has brightened substantially in the optical wavelength, many days after the initial explosion," said Professor Keith Mason, UK lead investigator for the UV telescope on Swift and CEO of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council [PPARC].

"On this occasion we were able to study the remarkable event in all its glory from the very beginning." ®

An animation of the event is available here.

Top three mobile application threats

More from The Register

next story
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
New FEMTO-MOON sighted BIRTHING from Saturn's RING
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
Melting permafrost switches to nasty, high-gear methane release
Result? 'Way more carbon being released into the atmosphere as methane'
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.