An image of galaxy M83 and the supernova SN 1957D. (Photo : NASA)
It's been almost fifty years since the discovery of a supernova in a galaxy 15-million light-years away, and now the Chandra X-Ray Observatory has captured X-ray remnants of the explosion, according to NASA. The nature of the data could suggest that one of the youngest pulsars we know of exists in the area.
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The team had to conduct an observation of 219 hours and 49 minutes, or eight-and-a-half days, just to definitively pick up X-ray emissions. A previous observation of just 14 hours in 2000 and 2001 did not pick up anything.
The images captured by the Chandra Observatory are some of the deepest X-ray observations in a spiral galaxy that is not our own.
The supernova was first discovered in 1957 and named SN 1957D because it was the fourth supernova found that year. The massive star explosion took place in the spiral galaxy M83 that lies around 15-million light-years away. In 1981, researchers picked up radio signals that had come from the supernova, and in 1987, years after light from the explosion had diminished, they also detected leftovers in the optical range.
The distribution of X-rays suggest that there may be a neutron star in the area where SN 1957D happened. A neutron star is a rapidly-spinning star formed from the collapsed star that created the supernova. This type of star, according to NASA, "may be producing a cocoon of charged particles moving at close to the speed of light known as a pulsar wind nebula. "
If it is indeed a pulsar, this would make it one of the youngest known, at 55 years old. NASA states that there is another possible infant pulsar from a 1979 supernova in another galaxy, but apparently astronomers cannot properly identify whether it is a black hole or a pulsar.
Supernovae explained by Harvard-Smithsonian astrophysicst Robert Kirshner: