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How hot are the atoms in supernovae shock waves?

22 Jan 2019, 09:41 UTC
How hot are the atoms in supernovae shock waves?
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Supernova 1987A was observed in different wavelengths for this study. ALMA data (in red) shows newly formed dust in the centre of the remnant. Hubble (in green) and Chandra (in blue) data show the expanding shock wave. Image credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/A. Angelich/NASA/ESA/Hubble Space Telescope/Chandra X-Ray Observatory
A new method to measure the temperature of atoms during the explosive death of a star will help scientists understand the shock wave that occurs as a result of this supernova explosion. An international team of researchers, including a scientist from Penn State University, Pennsylvania, United States, combined observations of a nearby supernova remnant—the structure remaining after a star’s explosion—with simulations in order to measure the temperature of slow-moving gas atoms surrounding the star as they are heated by the material propelled outward by the blast.
The research team analysed long-term observations of the nearby supernova remnant SN1987A using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and created a model describing the supernova. The team confirmed that the temperature of even the heaviest atoms – which had not yet been investigated – is related to their atomic weight, answering a long-standing question about shock waves and providing important information about their physical processes. A paper describing the ...

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