Royal Astronomical Society | Cardiff University | 2017 Jul 10
A group of scientists led by researchers at Cardiff University have discovered a rich inventory of molecules at the centre of an exploded star for the very first time.
Two previously undetected molecules, formylium (HCO+) and sulphur monoxide (SO), were found in the cooling aftermath of Supernova 1987A, located 163,000 light-years away in a nearby neighbour of our own Milky Way galaxy. The explosion was originally witnessed in February 1987, hence its name.
These newly identified molecules were accompanied by previously detected compounds such as carbon monoxide (CO) and silicon oxide (SiO). The researchers estimate that about 1 in 1,000 silicon atoms from the exploded star can be found in SiO molecules and only a few out of every million carbon atoms are in HCO+ molecules.
It was previously thought that the massive explosions of supernovae would completely destroy any molecules and dust that may have been already present.
However, the detection of these unexpected molecules suggests that the explosive death of stars could lead to clouds of molecules and dust at extremely cold temperatures, which are similar conditions to those seen in a stellar nursery where stars are born. ...
In an accompanying paper, a second research team have used ALMA’s data to create the first 3D model of Supernova 1987A, revealing important insights into the original star itself and the way supernovae create the basic building blocks of planets. ...
ALMA Spectral Survey of Supernova 1987A -- Molecular Inventory,
Chemistry, Dynamics and Explosive Nucleosynthesis - M. Matsuura et al