After decades of research, the neutron star born from a supernova visible from Earth in 1987 was discovered PHOTO

After more than three decades of observations, researchers from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) discovered a neutron star in the cosmic dust left behind by a supernova, informs Agerpres, citing Reuters.

The light from the explosion was observed from Earth on February 24, 1987, a day after a burst of neutrinos, subatomic particles produced in huge quantities when the core of a large star collapses, was detected. It was the first time since 1604 that a supernova was visible to the naked eye from Earth.

Called Supernova 1987A, it occurred 160,000 light-years from Earth in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf galaxy neighboring the Milky Way. A light-year represents the distance traveled by light in a calendar year: 9.5 trillion kilometers. The star, due to its large mass, had a relatively short life span of about 20 million years, much shorter than that of our Sun, experts say.

What does a supernova do?

Stars with a mass at least 8-10 times that of the Sun end their lives in a supernova, expelling much of their matter into space after the collapse of the stellar core, but leaving behind a remnant. Although catastrophic, these explosions are the main sources of chemical elements, including carbon, oxygen, silicon and iron, that make life possible. Depending on the size of the doomed star, its remnant can be either a neutron star or a black hole, a cosmic object whose gravitational attraction is so strong that even light cannot escape.

In the case of Supernova 1987A, the size of the star and the duration of the neutrino burst suggested that the remnant was a neutron star, but this has not been confirmed by direct evidence until now. Two instruments on the James Webb Space Telescope (which becomes operational in 2022) recently detected telltale chemical evidence involving argon and sulfur atoms, indicating that behind the debris left behind from the explosion is a new neutron star. born, the researchers who carried out the new study announced on Thursday.

The conclusion of over three decades of observations: it is a neutron star

“After following the supernova and searching for the compact object for over three decades, it was exciting to finally find the missing evidence for the neutron star, thanks to JWST,” said professor of astrophysics Claes Fransson from Stockholm University in Sweden, lead author of the study published in the journal Science.

Instruments on the James Webb Space Telescope detected argon and sulfur atoms that had their outer electrons removed, meaning they were “ionized.” The researchers studied various scenarios and came to the conclusion that their existence in this state is possible only with ultraviolet and X-ray radiation from a neutron star.

“Neutron stars are compact and extremely dense remnants of the explosion of a massive star. The phenomenon is comparable to compressing the entire mass of the Sun inside a city. They are so dense that the contents of a tablespoon of matter in a neutron star can weigh as much as a mountain.” said co-author of the study, Patrick Kavanagh, professor at the Faculty of Experimental Physics at Maynooth University in Ireland.

Researchers are now working to determine what kind of neutron star it is: a fast-rotating type of star called a pulsar with a strong magnetic field, or one with a weak magnetic field.