Scientists have just spotted one of the fastest moving stars known to date, and it could provide valuable answers about the cosmos. Martha Stewart (yes, indeed) reports held by Boston University researchers studied a fragment of a supernova star, LP 40-365, that flew out of the Milky Way galaxy at close to 2 million miles per hour. Although relatively rare in itself, the researchers also noticed that it rotates unusually slowly for the rest of the supernova at 8.9 hours for full rotation.
The team determined that repeated, rapid changes in brightness were probably due to surface rotation in the field of view. All the stars are spinning, but that process is accelerating for all the stars that survive a violent explosion like this.
Observation gave clues as to the probable origin of the fragment. LP 40-365 was probably part of a white dwarf star that “fed” the mass of partners in the binary system. As the two stars were spinning so close and fast, both were likely ejected outward when the LP 40-365 star exploded.
The composition of the star can also provide insight. Intact stars are usually made of hydrogen and helium, but this remnant is mostly made up of metals. The supernova’s reactions produced more complex elements, the researchers said.
The shard represents a rare opportunity to study a phenomenon that science was willing to consider only a few years ago. It also provides a more complete picture of the behavior of supernovae – they have never been neat, but it is now clearer how messy they can be.
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