Good news in the field of astronomy today. A supernova dubbed SN2010jl was detected in nearby galaxy UGC 5189A has astronomers buzzing. One item they could start buzzing about is coming up with better names.
The supernova was detected by ESA’s Very Large Telescope. Detected a couple years ago, the supernova is answering the question of how cosmic dust is created. For those non-astronomers, the universe is seeded with cosmic dust. Basically, we are made out of it. Yeah, you truly are a speck in the grand scheme of things.
Before the supernova answered the question surrounding cosmic dust, the prevailing theory was heavier elements form out of the dust after being fused together by aging stars and their resulting supernovas.
What the theory didn’t answer was how can particles of cosmic dust survive the heat and radiation from a supernova. It isn’t exactly a benign event. Well, SN2010jl has given them their answer. The observatory in Chile was pointed at the area on a frequent basis for the previous two and a half years.
Using the X-Shooter (finally a cool name), or a spectrograph to analyse the supernova, scientists were able to simultaneously look at the near-infrared wavelengths and visible wavelengths of the supernova. The answer to the cosmic dust question? It occurs after the supernova. Pretty simple explanation.
Once the supernova occurs, superheated gas is jettisoned into space. As the supernova hits into the wall of gas, it starts to compress. As the gas starts to cool to a not so chilly 2,000 degrees Celsius, solid particles start to form. How big? The dust forms at a diameter of one micrometer. It doesn’t sound big, but it explains how the dust is formed and able to survive the violent nature of a supernova.
Besides, it has to start somewhere. Like Neil deGrasse Tyson said, we are all made of star stuff. So, if you were ever curious on how cosmic dust survives the violence of space, you have your answer.