The white dwarf SDSS J1240+6710 has a strange atmosphere without any hydrogen and helium while being light and hurtling through the galaxy at 900 thousand kilometers per hour. Probably because it survived some new strange type of supernova.
Supernovae seem to be quite fatal events. What could even survive these extreme gigantic explosions? But it seems that somethings can survive. A few years ago, astronomers tracked down a strange dead star that hurtles through the Milky Way at extreme speed as it most likely survived its own death in the fires of a supernova.
We are talking about a white dwarf with the beautiful name SDSS J1240+6710 that was discovered back in 2015. Even back then scientists noticed that this white dwarf has a somewhat nontraditional chemical make-up. Usually, a white dwarf has an atmosphere full of hydrogen and helium. This dwarf has very little of these. Instead, his atmosphere is dominated by oxygen, neon, magnesium, and silicone.
So, Boris Gaensicke from the University of Warwick pointed the Hubble Space Telescope at SDSS J1240+6710 and found out that it is even stranger than we thought. They found out that the atmosphere also has carbon, sodium, and aluminum and that the white dwarf is also very small. It has a mass of only 40 % of the Sun. And it is hurtling through the galaxy at insane speeds. It is moving at roughly 900 thousand kilometers per hour.
When Gaensicke and his colleagues put all this information together they concluded that somehow, this white dwarf survived its supernova. While doing so, it burned through hydrogen and helium making carbon, sodium, and aluminum. But at the same time, it seems sure that it wasn’t a full-blown supernova. If only because. We also found out that the white dwarf doesn’t have iron, nickel, chrome, or manganese – the heavier elements that are made inside a supernova that fully explodes.
The small mass of the white dwarf also suggests that the white dwarf lost part of its mass in an explosion. And finally, a supernova explosion (even a strange small one) explains the crazy speed at which it hurtles through the galaxy. The scientists think most likely the supernova exploded in a binary system. The explosion fired off the two stellar partners into the Universe. Plus, they think that this is most likely a new type of supernova that we haven’t observed before. So, now only to find more of these strange stellar explosions.
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