NASA's Kepler Telescope Solves The Mystery Of Fast And Furious Exploding Star – I4U News


Supernova is a massive explosion that occurs in the final stages of a star’s life cycle. It is estimated that a star explodes as supernova once every second, exhibits a sudden peak in brightness and then slowly fades away within weeks. However, one particular type of stellar explosion, called Fast-Evolving Luminous Transient (FELT), has baffled astronomers for years because it lasts for a very brief duration. It disappears in just a few days instead of weeks.

Researchers can understand supernovae if they observe them in detail and from a variety of perspectives. But that’s really difficult because no one can tell when or where a supernova will happen next. So far only a few FELTs have been detected in telescopic sky surveys because they are so brief and hard to predict. By increasing the rate at which telescopes monitor the sky, it has been possible to see more FELTs and to study them thoroughly.

Thanks to the ability of NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope to precisely measure starlight over long periods of time and to pick subtle changes, astronomers now have been able to determine the nature of Fast-Evolving Luminous Transient. Kepler – designed to hunt for planets across our galaxy – has been able to capture the rare event 1.3 billion light years away from Earth and the final explosion of the star lasted for only a few days, unlike a typical supernova.

“We have discovered yet another way that stars die and distribute material back into space.” Co-researcher Dr. Brad Tucker from Australian National University said in a statement.

Researchers concluded that the star was cocooned inside a dense shell of gas and dust. When the explosive energy from the blast slammed into the shell, most of the kinetic energy was immediately converted to light and created a radiation that disappeared 10 times faster than a usual supernova. Traditional supernova models were unable to explain this big difference.

Kepler’s precise and continuous measurements allowed astronomers to record more details of the FELT event than ever before. Unlike other telescopes, Kepler collects data on a patch of the sky after every 30 minutes.

“The fact that Kepler completely captured the rapid evolution really constrains the exotic ways in which stars die. The wealth of data allowed us to disentangle the physical properties of the phantom blast, such as how much material the star expelled at the end of its life and the hypersonic speed of the explosion,” said David Khatami of the University of California at Berkeley. “This is the first time that we can test FELT models to a high degree of accuracy and really connect theory to observations.”



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