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Astronomers Find Stellar Collision Triggers Supernova Explosion

Astronomers have spotted dramatic evidence that a black hole flowed its way into the body of a cohort star and caused that companion to explode as a Supernova. The Astronomers were tipped off by data from the Very Large Array Sky Survey, a multi-year project using the National Science Foundation’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array.

Dillon Dong, a graduate student at Caltech and lead author on a paper reporting the discovery in the journal Science said that the Theorists had predicted that this could happen, but this is the first time we’ve seen such an event. The first hint came when the scientists assessed the images from a sky survey, which began observations in 2017. They found an object emitting radio waves but which had not appeared in an earlier VLA sky survey, called Faint Images of the Radio Sky at Twenty centimeters.

They made subsequent observations of the object, designated VT 1210+4956, using the VLA and the Keck telescope in Hawaii. They determined that the bright radio emission was coming from the outskirts of a dwarf, star-forming galaxy some 480 million light-years from Earth. They later found that an instrument aboard the International Space Station had detected a burst of X-rays coming from the object in 2014.

The data from all these observations allowed the Astronomers to piece together the history of a centuries-long death dance between two massive stars. Like most stars that are much more massive than our Sun, these two were born as a binary pair, closely orbiting each other. The neutron star’s orbit grew closer to its companion, and about 300 years ago it entered the companion’s atmosphere, starting the death dance. The interaction started spraying gas away from the companion into space. The ejected gas, spiraling outward, formed an expanding, doughnut-shaped ring, called a torus, around the pair.

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