Artist’s view of a supernova
The Hubble space telescope took a brief glance on three supernova explosions that had occurred in void space, far away from any nearby galaxy, but the data obtained provided researchers with additional information of the stars that had created the stellar bursts.
Supernovae are the explosions of dying stars that can outshine an entire galaxy when they occur. Yet, supernovae outside their host galaxies are a strange phenomenon that has yet to be deciphered.
The three isolated supernovas were first detected between 2008 and 2010 by the Mauna Kea telescope in Hawaii. At that moment, the images were fuzzy, so astronomers couldn’t tell whether the cosmic event occurred within their galaxies or in the void between galaxies located in different clusters. But Hubble’s latest imagery clearly shows that the supernovas were isolated from their galaxies.
Scientists reported that the three stellar explosions took place more than 300 light-years away from any cosmic object. To understand how isolated the supernovae were, the closest star to our sun is located at about a 4.24 light-year distance.
The three supernovae were generated by dying stars coming from clusters of galaxies that are more than 1 billion light-years away from our planet, researchers explained. They also said that any planets that might have orbited the stars during the burst were obliterated in the process.
Researcher Melissa Graham from the University of California, Berkeley, said that the night skies of the planets that may have orbited the dying suns were like black screens dotted by faint glows coming from remote clusters of galaxies.
A paper on the findings was published in the Astrophysical Journal.
But the three isolated stars from their host galaxies are not a unique phenomenon. Berkeley researchers explained that about 15 percent of stars that inhabit massive clusters end their life within a remote patch of sky.
Scientists suggest that the three stars may have generated type Ia supernovae, a type of stellar blast that occurs when a white dwarf star feeds on the material of a smaller, orbiting star up to the point the former explodes.
Graham even explained how the feeding process occurred. There are two possibilities. If the companion star was a lower-mass white dwarf, the larger star’s gravitation pulled it closer to the primary star and turned it into a ring of cosmic dust. So, the primary star cannibalized its stellar remains.
According to the second possibility, if the companion star was a a common star, the primary dwarf star gradually stole “sips of gas” from it.
“Either way, this transfer of material caused the primary to become unstably massive and explode as a Type Ia supernova,”
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