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Xray flash warns of supernova explosion

  1. May 23, 2008 #1


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    In a type 1b core-collapse supernova there is an initial Xray flash before the visible explosion.

    This was theorized to happen but nobody had seen it until this year. In January this year the Swift Xray satellite which can see Xray just happened to be looking in the right place (studying something else) and just happened to see the Xray flash that tells you there is going to be a supernova.

    Swift radioed to ground observatories and they pointed their telescopes at the star in time to see the visible explosion. Meanwhile Swift recorded some 500 seconds of Xray flash

    this has to be one of the coolest astronomy things that happened this year, or?


    a former teacher of mine, Alex, was involved ( great guy).

    Here are some more links


    Last edited: May 23, 2008
  2. jcsd
  3. May 23, 2008 #2
    What a great discovery for Astronomers!

    Marcus, will this have any impact on any cosmology theories? Can we use such observations to refine standard candle calculations (like type1a's are so useful at doing)

    As an amateur astronomer I'm curious to know what an expert like yourself can make of such a finding.

  4. May 23, 2008 #3


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    I appreciate your kind words so much, Order, but there are four or five people around here who can answer that better than I can.

    Hopefully Wallace or Cristo or Russ...et al. will give an opinion on what you are asking.

    But for starters notice that the standard candle supernova is the Type 1a
    which is not a core-collapse type. It comes from a binary system where one partner is a cooling white dwarf and the other partner is a giant that is feeding material to the dwarf.
    When the dwarf reaches a certain mass, it blows.

    This observation is about a Type 1b where there is just one star and it develops a core of iron, which can no longer fuse, and after a while the iron core collapses.
    So this observation is not telling us DIRECTLY about our standard candle.

    But all this knowledge is so interconnected that almost simply on general grounds I'd answer your question by saying YES every bit more we learn about any kind of bright explosion that we can see a long ways away is going to help us improve the cosmology model.

    Cosmology is evolving very fast now because it is getting many kinds of new information from new instruments seeing parts of the spectrum that we didnt used to see. And ALL this stuff helps. It doesn't have to be about any particular standard candle to be helpful.
  5. May 26, 2008 #4
    Yes, this was my feeling too. Although type 1b SNs are not standard candles, setting tighter limits on our understanding of them, is also likely to trickle into other niches of astronomy that may (or may not?) increase our limits on standard candle indicators like type 1a SNs.
  6. May 26, 2008 #5


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    I think the physics of core-collapse Supernovae and the physics of Type 1a supernovae are very different, so I'm not sure how much this will help knowledge of the standardness of the Type1a's unfortunately. In addition, I don't think there is an X-ray flash before the optical flash for Type 1a's so I don't think we are likely to get this kind of info for one of these explosions in the future.

    I don't want to be too negative though, since this is really a great piece of work that will answer a lot of interesting questions, just not questions relating to cosmology and type 1a supernovae. At least that's my reading of it at this stage.
  7. May 27, 2008 #6
    Interesting Wallace. Standard candles aside, what kinds of questions will this discovery answer for astronomers? Any biggies, or tighter constraints on current data?
  8. May 27, 2008 #7


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    I think the results are mainly relevant to checking models of core collapse supernovae. However I think these models feedback into models about how stars evolve more generally, so it may have some input there as well. Supernovae are in general very important in terms of driving star formation rates of galaxies, evolution of metallicity and many other things so understanding supernovae better will help a lot of different areas.
  9. May 28, 2008 #8


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    Is there an easy explanation of this effect? How far apart was the X-ray from the visible flash?
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