SOFIA Observations Find Dust Survives Obliteration in Supernova 1987A
Dust particles form as dying red giant stars throw off material and become part of interstellar clouds of various sizes, densities and temperatures. This cosmic dust is then destroyed by supernova blast waves, which propagate through space at more than 6,000 miles per second!
Supernova explosions are among the most powerful events in the universe, with a peak brightness equivalent to the light from billions of individual stars. The explosion also produces a blast wave that destroys almost everything in its path, including dust in the surrounding interstellar medium, the space between the stars. Current theories predict when a supernova blast sweeps through a region of space, much of the dust would be destroyed, so there should be little dust left.
Observations with SOFIA, however, tell a different, mysterious story — revealing more than 10 times the dust expected. This suggests that dust is much more abundant in the wake of a blast wave than theories estimate.
Caption: This artist's concept illustrates Supernova 1987A as a powerful blast wave passes through its outer ring and destroys most of its dust, after the wave passes, the dust re-forms or grows rapidly. SOFIA observations reveal that dust — a building block of stars and planets — can re-form or grow immediately after the catastrophic damage caused by the supernova's blast wave.
Read more: go.nasa.gov/2GoTKj3
Credit: NASA/SOFIA/Symbolic Pictures/The Casadonte Group
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center enables NASA’s mission through four scientific endeavors: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Solar System Exploration, and Astrophysics. Goddard plays a leading role in NASA’s accomplishments by contributing compelling scientific knowledge to advance the Agency’s mission.
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