A companion star previously buried in the brilliance of its partner’s Supernova has been discovered by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope as a witness at the scene of a star’s cataclysmic death. The finding is a first for a certain sort of — one in which the star’s whole outer gas envelope was stripped away before it exploded.
The discovery sheds light on the dual nature of large stars, as well as the possibility of a prelude to the final merging of companion stars, which would send gravitational waves, vibrations in the fabric of spacetime itself, reverberating across the cosmos.
In Supernova explosions, astronomers may discover the signatures of numerous components. Pre-, these ingredients are stacked like an onion. Hydrogen is located in a star’s outermost layer, thus if no hydrogen is found in the aftermath of a Supernova, it suggests it was stripped away before the explosion.The reason for the hydrogen loss was unknown, therefore astronomers used Hubble to look for hints and test ideas to explain these stripped. The latest Hubble data give the strongest evidence yet that an unseen companion star syphons off the gas envelope from its partner star before it explodes.
“This was the moment we had been waiting for, finally finding evidence for a binary system progenitor of a totally stripped Supernova,” said Ori Fox, chief investigator on the Hubble study program at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. “The idea is to transfer this field of study from theory to facts and examine how these systems perform in practise.” Fox’s team studied the location of Supernova (SN) 2013ge in ultraviolet light with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3, as well as prior Hubble images in the Barbara A. Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes.