NASA Infrared Observatory: “2013 Supernova Released Elements Needed to Create Earth-like Planets”

 

 

GKPersei-MiniSuperNova-20150316

 

Observations made with NASA’s flying observatory, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) indicate that nova eruptions create elements that can form rocky planets, much like Earth. Principal investigator Bob Gehrz of the University of Minnesota and collaborators have been using SOFIA to study novae as part of an ongoing research program to understand the role these objects play in creating and injecting elements into the material between the stars called the interstellar medium.


The image above shows GK Persei, a bright nova that erupted in 1901 reaching a maximum magnitude of 0.2, the brightest nova of modern times until Nova Aquilae 1918. GK Persei is surrounded by the Firework nebula, a nova remnant first detected in 1902 injecting an expanding cloud of gas and dust bubbles moving up to 1200 kilometers per second into the interstellar medium.

Gerhz and his team found high levels of elements such as carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, neon, magnesium, aluminum and silicon in the Nova Delphini, which erupted in 2013 in the constellation Delphinum (the Dolphin). Some of these elements can be found in living things, whereas others are important constituents of rocky planets such as Earth.

 

Nova-del-580x431

There is evidence that when the universe began in the Big Bang, only trace amounts of elements other than hydrogen and helium were created. Atoms of heavier elements were made later by processes inside stars, or during star death throes such as nova and supernova explosions.

The observations of the Nova Delphini debris cloud indicate that novae in general may be a major source of medium-weight elements in the universe. Their paper was published in the Astrophysical Journal.

 

EP-140519496

 

SOFIA’s Program Scientist Pam Marcum noted that “these spectra of Nova Delphinum could only be obtained by SOFIA, not by any observatory on the ground or currently in space, because of SOFIA’s unique access to the specific range of infrared wavelengths needed for these measurements.” She continued, “this research is part of the broad, ongoing effort by astronomers to understand the life cycles of stars, and how the formation of planets like Earth fit into those cycles.”

 

Slide5

The observations for these findings were gathered with the FORCAST instrument on SOFIA, the Faint Object infraRed CAmera for the SOFIA Telescope, which can gather images and spectra of planets, stars, interstellar clouds and galaxies at mid-infrared wavelengths. SOFIA is a Boeing 747SP jetliner modified to carry a 100-inch diameter telescope.

NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California manages the SOFIA program. The SOFIA Science Center is based at Ames and managed by NASA in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association of Columbia, Maryland, and the German SOFIA Institute at the University of Stuttgart. The aircraft is based at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center facility in Palmdale, California.

SOFIA is a highly modified Boeing 747SP jetliner fitted with a 2.5-meter (100-inch) telescope that uses a suite of seven instruments to study celestial objects at infrared wavelengths during 10-hour overnight science missions. SOFIA flies at altitudes between 39,000 and 45,000 feet (12-14 kilometers) above more than 99 percent of the water vapor in the Earth’s atmosphere that blocks infrared energy from reaching ground-based observatories.

The Daily Galaxy via nasa.gov

 

"The Galaxy" in Your Inbox, Free, Daily