Tuesday, December 1, 2009
A while ago I saw an article about how a pair of physics professors, Craig Heinke, from the University of Alberta and Wynn Ho, from Southampton U. in the UK, have revealed the mystery behind a city-sized chunk of radioactive rock that’s floating around in space for donkeys years. Apparently it took them a whole decade to solve it, but the rock itself is about 11,000 years old, so all things considered, the profs did okay. They were able to determine that the rock is the leftover core of a supernova that blew 11,000 years ago, but didn't actually become visible until 330 years ago (so we shouldn't feel bad either).
Heinke explained: This one has been a real puzzle for about 10 years since other astronomers detected this object first. We have been able to figure out what it is. We are able to show conclusively that this is a neutron star, something that was not entirely clear before. Neutron stars are produced when massive stars explode, an event called a supernova. These neutron stars are the remnants left behind and are the densest objects in the universe. The remnant in this case was difficult to identify, partly because of its age. It was an infant neutron star with an unusual carbon wrapping if you like.
Well, I don’t know about you, but I think that’s really sweet. I like knowing there’s a little baby neutron star up there way over our heads, floating around in a nice soft carbon blankie. Kinda makes you wanna dance for joy, doesn’t it?
Image from Wikimedia Commons