Econintersect: There may be thousands of time bombs in the Milky Way. The luminous area in the night sky that is produced by all the stars which comprise the galaxy in which our solar system finds itself is cocked and loaded. According to new research published by R. Di Stefano, R. Voss, and J.S.W. Claeys in Astrophysics Journal Letters, a process for supernova formation which has a spin up and then spin down sequence is occurring in thousands of locations within our galaxy. Increasing spins of aging stars create the momentum and gravity needed to aquire sufficient mass to trigger supernova explosions. Then a subsequent spin slowdown reduces the angular momentum, which has been counteracting the ever increasing gravity due to the accreted matter, until a collapse into a gravitational black hole occurs. That collapse produces the brilliantly ebergetic super nova which expires leaving behind the black hole corpse.
The researchers make a number of specific observations, including:
In our galaxy, scientists estimate that there are three Type Ia supernovae every thousand years. If a typical super-Chandrasekhar-mass white dwarf takes millions of years to spin down and explode, then calculations suggest that there should be dozens of pre-explosion systems within a few thousand light-years of Earth.
Those supernova precursors will be difficult to detect. However, upcoming wide-field surveys conducted at facilities like Pan-STARRS and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope should be able to spot them.
“We don’t know of any super-Chandrasekhar-mass white dwarfs in the Milky Way yet, but we’re looking forward to hunting them out,” says coauthor Rasmus Voss of Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
Sources: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Press Release, R & D Magazine and Astrophysics Journal Letters
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