Double Cosmic Cannibalism


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Talk about a huge snack.


Back in 2017, the Very Large Array (VLA) captured radio energy bursts as bright as a dwarf star-forming galaxy.

Dillon Dong, an astronomer at Caltech, made follow-up observations with the VLA, and another telescope at the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. The Keck telescope captured a lightshow of material streaming in all directions 3.2 million kilometers per hour. These finding suggest this may have been the result of a previous energetic explosion. According to Dong and his colleagues, this is what they believe happened:


Long ago, as gravity brought a binary star and it's smaller stellar counterpart closer together, the younger stellar companion actually entered the outer layer of the older stellar companion after a spectacular supernova, leaving behind a neutron star or a black hole.

What Is A Supernova?

"A supernova is the biggest explosion that humans have ever seen. Each blast is the extremely bright, super-powerful explosion of a star. "

https://spaceplace.nasa.gov/supernova/en/

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During it's hundreds of years inside the still-living star, the compact object spiraled downward until it swallowed its partner's core. A shell of gas and dust formed around the smaller star during this period, resulting from the larger one's rapid shedding of material. Gravitational forces and magnetic interactions caused the larger star to explode due to enormous jets of energy generated from the dead star's munching in the living star's center.


Why did the star explode? Why didn't it stop fusion and collapse into the black hole?

The smaller star likely dragged the core outside of the bigger star. Without the core, there's not enough gravity to keep the star together- so it exploded.

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Although theorists have previously thought of such a scenario, the first direct observation of that phenomenon appears to have been made here, according to Dong. Dong, along with other researchers, say that this data could aid in constraining the timing of a phenomenon called common envelope evolution.


Citations


Mann, Adam. “Astronomers may have seen a star gulp down a black hole and explode.ScienceNews, https://www.sciencenews.org/article/astronomy-star-swallow-black-hole-supernova-cosmology. Accessed 8 September 2021.

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