Feeds

'Rock star' spewed guts after emitting vast pearl necklace

Prehistoric luminary's explosive antics revealed

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

The equivalent of a "rock star", having lived a "fast, flashy life and died young" apparently exploded with unimaginable violence in the year 161,000 BC and spewed "guts" across an enormous area. The exploding prehistoric luminary had previously ejected a "string of pearls", according to investigating boffins.

The 'String of Pearls' around remnants of supernova 1987A in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Credit: CU-Boulder

Live fast and die young - having ejected a pearl necklace across the entire galaxy.

The rock star in question is perhaps better known as the supernova 1987A, located in the Large Magellanic Cloud just outside our galaxy. The light of 1987A blowing up only reached the Earth 23 years ago, as it lies roughly 163,000 lightyears away.

Astroboffins have since gleaned many valuable insights from watching the long-ago explosion unfold, often using specialised instruments aboard the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. 1987A is the closest star to be spotted blowing up since 1604.

"To see a supernova go off in our backyard and to watch its evolution and interactions with the environment in human time scales is unprecedented," says Kevin France, lead boffin on a recent study of the monster extragalactic blast. "The massive stars that produce explosions like Supernova 1987A are like rock stars - they live fast, flashy lives and die young."

According to France and his colleagues, 1987A had been showing signs of internal disturbances long before it actually blew up. The "String of Pearls" (pictured), a colossal, glowing gaseous smoke-ring some 6 trillion miles in diameter, is thought to have been coughed out during preliminary rumblings perhaps 20,000 years before the troubled star finally exploded.

"New observations allow us to accurately measure the velocity and composition of the ejected 'star guts,' which tell us about the deposition of energy and heavy elements into the host galaxy," says France.

Boffins believe that most of the heavier and more interesting elements present in the universe are created during supernova explosions. Fusion processes such as those powering normal sun/starlight and relatively minor nova events etc are insufficiently violent to weld the basic hydrogen of the universe - almost all matter now in existence is hydrogen - into the large, complex atoms found further down the Periodic Table. Much of the very stuff of Earth and even of our own bodies was originally forged from lighter elements during supernova explosions unimaginably distant in space and time.

According to France, the only instrument which can analyse the String of Pearls in the ultraviolet spectrum is the Hubble - in particular its Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) instrument. The STIS' power supply unfortunately broke down in 2004, but Shuttle astronauts mended it again on a final servicing mission last year.

"We are seeing the effect a supernova can have in the surrounding galaxy, including how the energy deposited by these stellar explosions changes the dynamics and chemistry of the environment," says France.

He and his colleagues have just published a new paper detailing their findings in hefty boffinry mag Science. ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Microsoft's anti-bug breakthrough: Wire devs to BRAIN SCANNERS
Clippy: It looks your hands are shaking, are you sure you want to commit this code?
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.