One of the brightest objects in the universe is a supernova, which is when a start collapses in on itself at the end of its life cycle and then puts off an incredibly bright show of light. Of course, it wouldn’t be the mystical universe if there wasn’t a bigger fish.
Scientists have been studying the phenomenon of what they call ‘super luminous’ supernovae, which are actually even brighter than regular supernovae. In fact, they may just be the brightest things we know of in our universe. At this point in time, only about a dozen are known to exist.
Since they can actually get brighter than regular supernovae can, scientists are both interested and mystified by the mystery surrounding them.
In a recent study, which has been published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, scientists may have come up with a supportable reason for why super luminous supernovae get so bright.
After scientists used the Great Canary Telescope (GTC) to observe DEZ14X3taz, a hot spot for this kind of activity some 6.4 billion light years away from Earth, scientists were surprised to find that it had exhibited two peak luminous events, not one.
“We think that a very massive star, some 200 times the mass of the Sun, collapses to form a magnetar. In the process the first explosion occurs, which expels into space a quantity of matter equivalent to the mass of our Sun, and this gives rise to the first peak of the graph,” said lead scientist Mathew Smith of the University of Southampton.
“The second peak occurs when the star collapses to form the magnetar, which is a very dense object rotating rapidly on its axis, and which heats up the matter expelled from the first explosion. This heating is what generates the second peak in the luminosity.”
Because they put off so much more light than basic supernovae, a super luminous supernova can remain bright for up to six months, which compares to only a few weeks for a basic supernova. The sheer amount of energy is just so much higher when coming off of a super luminous supernova.
The longer light display and brighter intensity make super luminous supernovae easier to study, and in some cases, they can even be seen with the naked eye in the night skies.
Trying to understand how super luminous supernovae work is an important part of unlocking the mystery of the universe, as they are some of the most violent forces that occur in the entire universe. Of course, understanding that two explosions, not one, cause these massively-bright light sources is a great first step in understanding these rare phenomena.