Supernova ‘CSI’ Team Eyes Old Photos for Stellar Blast Victim
In a forensic twist on astronomy, scientists turned sleuths are trying to track down the stellar victim of a supernova explosion that occurred last year.
Image: This artist’s conception shows what scientists believe to be the progenitor system of the supernova SN 2011dh, which exploded in the Whirlpool galaxy in May 2011. The system consists of a blue star and a yellow supergiant. Credit: Kavli IPMU/Aya Tsuboi
An exploded star was discovered on May 31, 2011, in the famous nearby Whirlpool Galaxy (M51), which lies about 23 million light-years from our own Milky Way. Supernovas are thought to occur when massive stars reach the end of their lives, running out of fuel to power their inner furnaces and collapsing in on themselves to form dense neutron stars or black holes.
This supernova, called SN 2011dh, peaked in brightness in June 2011, shining light across the universe that was picked up by telescopes here on Earth. Now, astronomers are going back to photos taken of the galaxy before the supernova to try to find the star that exploded.