X-rays could provide early warning of supernovae

Posted by pt91 at Dec 07, 2012 12:22 PM |
Some collapsing stars give off additional X-ray radiation that could help astronomers monitor them at an early stage, according a University of Leicester team.
X-rays could provide early warning of supernovae

GRB 080913, a distant supernova detected by Swift. This image merges the view through Swift's UltraViolet and Optical Telescope, which shows bright stars, and its X-ray Telescope. Credit: NASA/Swift/Stefan Immler

The researchers from our Department of Physics and astronomy measured an excess of X-ray radiation in the first few minutes of collapsing massive stars, which may be the signature of the supernova shock wave first escaping from the star. 

According to Dr Rhaana Starling, it is normally gamma-ray bursts that are picked up by monitoring instruments in Space, that in turn alert astronomers to stellar deaths.

Only the most energetic supernovae go hand-in-hand with gamma-ray bursts, but for this sub-class it may be possible to identify X-ray emission signatures of the supernova in its infancy. If the supernova could be detected earlier, by using the X-ray early warning system, astronomers could monitor the event as it happens and pinpoint the drivers behind one of the most violent events in our Universe.