An international group of scientists, including researchers from The Australian National University (ANU), have used data taken from the dead Kepler space telescope to show us the gloriously exquisite end to the dying star and supernova known as SN 2018oh.
As Phys.org reports, thanks to the Kepler telescope, astronomers have been able to watch in awe as a distant star ended its days a long, long time ago, in an effort to try and better understand the explosion of stars like the supernova SN 2018oh. Dr. Brad Tucker, who is one of the astronomers involved in the new study, explained that Kepler has now allowed astronomers to witness the fiery and dramatic cycle of a star’s death.
“Kepler—in its final days before running out of fuel and being retired—observed the minute changes in brightness of the star’s explosion from its very beginnings, while the ground-based telescopes detected changes in color and the atomic make-up of this dying star. With the combined data from these telescopes, astronomers achieved what they had hoped for—an unprecedented observation of the onset of a star’s death.”
The supernova SN 2018oh is known as a Type Ia supernova, which is a particularly important kind as it allows astronomers to better grapple with dark energy and also the immensely fast expansion of the universe. As Dr. Tucker has noted, before the Kepler telescope, it wouldn’t have been possible to watch the infant stages of a star’s explosion.
Scientists were first given notice of this supernova thanks to the watchful eye of five telescopes that are part of a worldwide program known as the All Sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae.
With images proffered on February 4, 2018, astronomers were happy to discover that the distant galaxy called UGC 478, where the supernova explosion was being witnessed, had been studied by the Kepler telescope. Because of this, astronomers were able to extract data from Kepler and combine this with further data from other telescopes like the Dark Energy Camera and the Pan-STARRS1 telescopes.
At the point that supernova SN 2018oh was being observed, it was at a heightened blue color, which showed astronomers that the temperature of this dying star was in the temperature range of billions of degrees. According to Dr. Tucker, it is believed that a white dwarf that was exploding bumped into another close star, which is what may have caused this particular supernova explosion.
“It’s possible in the case of SN 2018oh that the shock wave from the exploding white dwarf ran into the companion star, creating an extremely hot and bright halo that accounts for the added brightness and heat we observed. With this latest result, we now know a range of star systems cause these important explosions—those used by ANU Vice-Chancellor and astronomer Brian Schmidt to show the Universe was growing at an accelerating rate.”
Once research has been completed on the Kepler observations of the dying supernova SN 2018oh, three separate papers that have been written by 130 scientists will be published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters and the Astrophysical Journal.