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Scientists Find a Supernova 'In the Making,' 1500 Light Years Away

Representative photo of a supernova. In photo: The Pinwheel Galaxy is pictured as a supernova (PTF11kly) heads towards peak brightness. REUTERS/BJ Fulton (Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope) and the Palomar Transient Factor. Credits: Reuters.

Representative photo of a supernova. In photo: The Pinwheel Galaxy is pictured as a supernova (PTF11kly) heads towards peak brightness. REUTERS/BJ Fulton (Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope) and the Palomar Transient Factor. Credits: Reuters.

The existence of a larger massive white dwarf in the pair was deduced from the way the subdwarf gets deformed into a teardrop shape as it loses matter to its companion.

Scientists have discovered what seems to be a supernova in the making. They are spiralling each other about 1500 light-years away, although scientists agree this will not happen for the next approximately 70 million years, this is going to be one of the very few situations that we know of where a supernova might be created. As per Daily Mail, the ‘hot subdwarf’ in the binary system HD265435 was discovered initially by experts headed by the University of Warwick using NASA’s exoplanet searching TESS satellite.

The existence of a larger massive white dwarf in the pair was deduced from the way the subdwarf gets deformed into a teardrop shape as it loses matter to its companion. The ‘dead’ white dwarf star will ultimately re-ignite and burst as a supernova. Till then, the duo will circle one another at a dramatic pace of one revolution every 100 minutes while the white dwarf eats the subdwarf.

HD265435 is unique in that it is one of only a handful of binary systems discovered to date that look to be on the verge of going supernova.

Furthermore, the results will increase our understanding of how supernovae occur and may benefit in studies of the universe’s expansion, according to scientists. ‘We don’t know how these supernovae burst, but we know it has to occur because we see it occurring elsewhere in the cosmos’, said research author and University of Warwick astronomer Ingrid Pelisoli.

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‘One possibility is that the white dwarf absorbs enough matter from the hot subdwarf that, as the two orbit each other and come closer, stuff will begin to break from the hot subdwarf and fall onto the white dwarf.’

Regardless, ‘whenever the white dwarf accumulates enough mass from any approach, it will go supernova,’ Dr Pelisoli stated. The hot subdwarf was discovered in data from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS for short.

The researchers did not directly detect the white dwarf; rather, they were able to deduce its presence based on how the brightness of the subdwarf changed over time in such a way that indicated a huge object was warping the star’s structure.

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first published:July 15, 2021, 12:16 IST