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22nd of November 2017

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Hubble Captures Distant Supernova’s Light Echoes | Astronomy | Sci-News.com

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has observed an extremely rare cosmic phenomenon, called a ‘light echo,’ in Messier 82, a star-forming galaxy located 11.4 million light-years away in the direction of the northern constellation Ursa Major.

SN 2014J occurred at the upper right of Messier 82 and is marked by an ‘X.’ The inset images at top reveal an expanding shell of light from the stellar explosion sweeping through interstellar space, called a ‘light echo.’ The images were taken 10 months to nearly two years after the violent event – from November 6, 2014 to October 12, 2016. Image credit: NASA / ESA / Y. Yang, Texas A&M University & Weizmann Institute of Science.

SN 2014J occurred at the upper right of Messier 82 and is marked by an ‘X.’ The inset images at top reveal an expanding shell of light from the stellar explosion sweeping through interstellar space, called a ‘light echo.’ The images were taken 10 months to nearly two years after the violent event – from November 6, 2014 to October 12, 2016. Image credit: NASA / ESA / Y. Yang, Texas A&M University & Weizmann Institute of Science.

Voices reverberating off mountains and the sound of footsteps bouncing off walls are examples of an echo. Echoes happen when sound waves ricochet off surfaces and return to the listener.

Space has its own version of an echo. It’s not made with sound but with light, and occurs when light bounces off dust clouds.

Texas A. & M. University astronomer Yi Yang and colleagues used Hubble to study one of these cosmic echoes.

“A light echo occurs because light from a supernova travels different distances to arrive at Earth,” the astronomers explained.

“Some light comes to Earth directly from the supernova blast. Other light is delayed because it travels indirectly.”

“In this case, the light is bouncing off a huge dust cloud that extends 300 to 1,600 light-years around the supernova and is being reflected toward Earth.”

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The team measured the size and brightness of ‘light echoes’ from the Type Ia supernova (SN) 2014J in the nearby galaxy Messier 82.

“In Messier 82 we see a bright blue disk, webs of shredded clouds, and fiery-looking plumes of glowing hydrogen blasting out of its central regions,” the scientists said.

“Close encounters with its larger neighbor, the ‘grand design’ spiral galaxy Messier 81, is compressing gas in Messier 82 and stoking the birth of multiple star clusters.”

“Some of these stars live for only a short time and die in cataclysmic supernova blasts, as shown by SN 2014J.”

The team’s findings are published in the Astrophysical Journal and on Cornell University Library’s arXiv.org site.

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Yi Yang et al. 2017. Interstellar-Medium Mapping in M82 through Light Echoes around Supernova 2014J. ApJ 834, 60; doi: 10.3847/1538-4357/834/1/60

Yi Yang et al. 2017. Late-time flattening of Type Ia Supernova light curves: Constraints from SN 2014J in M82. AAS journals, in press; arXiv: 1704.01431

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