Astronomers have discovered a supernova explosion that may belong to a mythical star.
The space is filled with mysteries beyond our imagination. And such a mystery is the origin of the universe. Scientists have multiple theories about it, but they are all hypothetical and only exist in theory. In fact, there are many theories about the origin of the universe, some based on science and others based on beliefs. Over the years we have found evidence that has given us confidence in these theories, but we have yet to discover conclusive evidence of them. But thanks to the Gemini Near-Infrared Spectrograph (GNIRS) on the 8.1-meter Gemini North telescope, a team of astronomers has discovered something that could potentially give us a definitive direction for the origin of the universe. And it all adds up to a massive supernova from a mythical Population III star.
Astronomer finds traces of supernovae possibly related to the elusive Population III star
It all started when a team of astronomers enlisted the help of the Gemini North telescope on the island of Hawaii to analyze a quasar at the far end of the Universe. The curiosity arose after they saw a strange chemical signature around the object. A closer look at the chemical signature revealed a high ratio of iron to magnesium. The conclusion was that the debris must be from a star that could be 300 times the size of the Sun. But that wasn’t the interesting thing.
The scientists knew they were watching a supernova event. A supernova is a powerful and luminous explosion of a star. It takes place in large stars after they have lost a significant amount of mass through constant nuclear fusion. As a result, the size increases, but the pressure inside the star falls critically. This causes the core of the star to collapse and a huge explosion takes place. Supernovas are considered the largest combustion reaction in the universe.
However, a supernova leaves behind a white or black dwarf. This left behind only gaseous debris. This led the team to suspect that what they were seeing could be a supernova with pair instability. But humans have never been able to see a supernova with a pair of instability, and its existence is only a theoretical subject. Another mystery surrounding it is that such supernovas are only caused by Population III stars, something we’ve never seen before either.
Star population is a way of categorizing the stars. They come in three categories and are divided according to metallicity in their composition. The leading theory is that the less metal a star has, the older it was in terms of the age of the universe. The logic is simple: Since newer stars are formed by older stars or the material they leave behind, and all stars undergo nuclear fusion, the younger a star is, the higher the concentration of metals will be. It should be noted that for the classification, all elements, except hydrogen and helium, are considered metal.
So the sun would be an example of a population I star because it has a high metal content and is a fairly young star. Population II stars are older and are therefore found at the edge and halo of galaxies. A Population III star is extremely massive, luminous, and hot with virtually no metals. These stars are believed to be the first stars after the birth of the universe itself. So these stars are direct products of the big bang explosion.
If true, this is a huge nod to the theory of the Big Bang as a possible origin of the universe.
“It was clear to me that the supernova candidate for this would be a pair instability supernova of a Population III star, in which the entire star explodes without leaving a remnant. I was delighted and somewhat surprised to discover that a pair of- instability supernova of a star with a mass about 300 times that of the Sun produces a magnesium to iron ratio that matches the low value we derived for the quasar,” Yuzuru Yoshii, study co-author and University astronomer from Tokyo, told space.com.