XMM-Newton observtion of SN 1979C
Credit: NASA/ESA/Immler et al.

Not Fade Away

It usually is that supernovae brighten briefly then fade quickly, at least in X-rays. Usually they fade considerably in onlyh a matter of months. But sometimes there are exceptions. Take SN 1979c in the M100 spiral galaxy, for instance. Even though the star exploded about 24 years ago, it refuses to go away. The images of the supernova shown above were obtained by the XMM-Newton X-ray observatory in 2001. The image on the left was obtained by the EPIC X-ray cameras and shows an X-ray bright point of light at the position of the supernova (circle). The image on the right was obtained by the Optical Monitor camera on XMM-Newton, and shows (at higher spatial resolution) the blue and ultraviolet light still being emitted from this extragalactic SN. Most likely the brightness and longevity of this supernova has to do with the environment in which SN 1979C exploded. Evidently there's a large amount of gas and dust in the vicinity, probably deposited by the supernova's progenitor in the centuries before the explosion. Astronomers have used the amount of X-ray emission to do a forensic study of the amount of mass lost by the progenitor just prior to the explosion.

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Friday, 20-Apr-2012 15:24:07 EDT