A team of astronomers have made the first observations of the cosmic dust which originates from an ancient supernova that is moving in the center of the Milky Way. The scientists observed the cosmic dust cloud with the help of an infrared telescope which was set on a modified Boeing 747,
“Dust is very important because it is the thing that forms stars and planets, like the Earth and Sun, respectively, so to know where it comes from is an important question,” said the lead author of the study Ryan Lau, Cornell postdoctoral associate for astronomy. The scientific paper was published March 19 in Science Express.
“Our work strongly reinforces the theory that supernovae are producing the dust seen in galaxies of the early universe,” Lau added.
The scientist explained that one of astronomy’s greatest unanswered questions is why galaxies, which started 1 billion years after the Big Bang, are containing so much dust. The most popular theory is that stars that explode, called supernovae, contain huge amounts of material rich in metals that also contains dust, like silicon, carbon and iron.
The astronomers examined Sagittarius A East, a reminiscence of a 10,000-year-old supernova near the center of the Milky Way, our galaxy.
Ryan Lau explained that when a supernova explodes, the materials from its center expand and form dust. The phenomenon has been noticed in several young supernova remains, like the famous Cassiopeia A and SN1987A. In the unstable supernova environment, researchers expect the dust to be destroyed.
“That is the theory,” Lau said, adding: “Until now, there have been no direct examinations of any dust surviving the environment of the supernova remnant. That’s why our observations of an ‘old’ supernova are so crucial”.
The scientists used the world’s largest airborne astronomical observatory – a device called the Faint Object Infrared Camera Telescope (FORCAST) aboard the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, called SOFIA, which is a modified Boeing 747 in order to get the data. The astronomers participated in a joint project of NASA, the Universities Space Research Association and the German Aerospace Center.
Te research, called “Old Supernova Dust Factory Revealed at the Galactic Center”, was co-authored by Mark Morris, University of California, Los Angeles, Terry Herter, Cornell professor of astronomy and principal scientific investigator on FORCAST, Joe Adams, NASA Ames Research Center and Zhiyuan Li, Nanjing University, China.
Image Source: Anne’s Astronomy News