Unprecedented observations shine light on a compact star’s final moments
Artist’s interpretation of the calcium-rich supernova 2019ehk. Shown in orange is the calcium-rich material created in the explosion. Purple coloring represents gas shedded by the star right before the explosion, which then produced bright X-ray emission when the material collided with the supernova shockwave. Image Credit: Aaron M. Geller, Northwestern University
Most of the calcium in the universe — including the very calcium in our teeth and bones — was created in the last gasp of dying stars.
Called “calcium-rich supernovae,” these stellar explosions are so rare that astrophysicists have struggled to find and subsequently study them. The nature of these supernovae and their mechanism for creating calcium, therefore, have remained elusive.
Now a Northwestern University-led team has potentially uncovered the true nature of these rare, mysterious events. For the first time ever, the researchers examined a calcium-rich supernova with X-ray imaging, which provided an unprecedented glimpse into the star during the last month of its life and ultimate explosion.
Continue to the full story on Northwestern News by Amanda Morris.
- The Astrophysical Journal, “SN 2019ehk: A Double-Peaked Ca-rich Transient with Luminous X-ray Emission and Shock-Ionized Spectral Features” by Jacobson-Galán et al
- W.M. Keck Observatory, “Calcium-Rich Supernova Examined With X-Rays For First Time“
- NSF’s NOIRLab, “Astronomers Sink Their Teeth Into Special Supernova”
Media Mentions of Northwestern/CIERA
- CNN, “Exploding stars created the calcium in our bones and teeth, study says” by Ashley Strickland
- Inverse, “Your Bones are Made from a Supernova” by David Grossman
- International Business Times, “Rare Supernova: Astronomers Observe Calcium-Rich Supernova In X-Ray For The First Time Ever” by Athena Chan
- ZME Science, “Thank exploding stars for your teeth and bones” by Tibi Puiu
- Popular Mechanics, “The Calcium in Your Teeth Comes from Exploding Stars” by Jennifer Leman