A group of ESA/NASA scientists may have found a lone survivor in the cloudy remnants of a supernova explosion.
The formation, known as N103B, is in the Large Magellanic Cloud some 160,000 light years from Earth. N103B is a type Ia supernovae, and judging by its elliptical-shaped shell, it may have hit a denser cloud shortly after it exploded — causing a clear opening. Scientists are using N103B to understand how type Ia supernovae occur.
The running theory is that they only form out of a binary system, where two sister stars are bound by gravitational force, and one or both of the stars are white dwarfs. In the first scenario, both stars are white dwarfs and when they collide they come to form the type Ia supernovae. The second, is that only one of the stars is a white dwarf and the other, normal star accredits stellar material onto the white dwarf until it explodes. In the second scenario, the normal star would survive.
Until now, there has never been any evidence of a star surviving a type Ia explosion to confirm the second scenario. But, by using the Hubble Space Telescope, scientists were able to clearly identify what could be the long lost sister. This star’s temperature, luminosity, and distance make it a possible candidate to support the second scenario. However, scientists do not have enough information to confirm this theory.
Nonetheless, N103B is the perfect object for studying the life cycle of stars. Because of its predictable nature, scientists use it as a standard when studying other stars. So, even if we don’t know its origins, they may be able to use it to uncover other stars origins, and that’s pretty neat.