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‘Mini Supernova’ Explosion Captured in Stunning NASA Photo

Mini Supernova Explosion

Image credit: NASA. GK Persei, using X-ray data from Chandra (blue), optical from Hubble (yellow) and radio from the VLT (pink)

As early as 1901, an outstanding striking stellar object known GK Persei drew great attention from many astronomers. After its explosion within the celestial scene, such star was regarded as the brightest one in the sky for the period of a few days before it became dimming in a slow pace.

At present, after nearly a hundred years, scientists realized that their continuous observation was nothing but sort of “mini supernova” explosion, which previously happened 1,500 years ago.

Before being exploded, GK Persei used to be similar to our sun, but nearly eight times less massive than the sun, when getting to its end of the drawn out stellar evolution. After wearing out all its nuclear fuel formed with hydrogen, GK Persei turned to a white dwarf characteristic of being very hot and dense. As they are extremely dense, only a teaspoon of their matter would be weighed by an amazing 5.5 ton back on Earth.

However this wasn’t it for GK Persei; its gravitational pull was so strong that it could draw material mostly consisted of hydrogen from its companion star. If there was enough gas to be sucked in, nuclear fusion reactions would occur on the dwarf’s surface, which in the end would lead to an exciting boom that peeled its outer shell and released the material into the space nearby.

Such cosmic explosion outbursts are described as “classical novas” and are thought to be the supernovas on a small scale. However, being different from supernovas, these mini explosions do not cause the destruction of the whole star.

Although classical novas might be more commonly observed than supernovas, they are still the focus of the current scientific research, because they are much helpful in improving our better understanding of stellar explosions. Additionally, the reason why GK Persei has aroused the special interests from researchers is that it has already demonstrated some intriguing insights into the environment related to such event.

After focusing the Chandra X-ray observatory on the nova in two separate cases, during a period of 13 years, researchers were capable of collecting fundamental information about the changes in X-ray emissions that took place over time. These data showed that the explosion sent ejected material into space at unbelievable speeds of around a million kilometers per hour. It is clearly meant that between observations, the debris spread out around 145 billion kilometers.

However, it is the most interesting that the temperature of this stellar remained unchanged, though its corpse decreased in X-ray luminosity by nearly forty percent during the period of thirteen years. This discovery was beyond expectation, if given the fact that the shock wave generated by the outburst should have left a trail of cooler temperatures when being expanded and heated with more and more matter.

In the statement made by NASA, it was suggested that the wave of energy has swept up a tiny amount of gas in the environment surrounding the star during the period of the last 13 years. And it could also demonstrate that the wave was going through a less dense area than previously thought.

Source: NASA and space.com