A supernova from a merger with a black hole or neutron star

From EurekAlert:

Astronomers have found dramatic evidence that a black hole or neutron star spiraled its way into the core of a companion star and caused that companion to explode as a supernova. …

“Theorists had predicted that this could happen, but this is the first time we’ve actually seen such an event,” said Dillon Dong, a graduate student at Caltech and lead author on a paper reporting the discovery in the journal Science.

Sadly there doesn’t seem to be an open access version of the paper, but the paywalled version is available via Science.

The short version is that the supernova occurred in a star which had recently (within a few centuries) undergone close interactions with its companion (causing a large amount of material to be thrown out into space). The odds of that happening so soon before the supernova are quire small, so it’s more likely that the interaction caused the supernova. The only way that could happen is if the companion was a black hole or neutron star which merged with the star and disrupted its core.

Featured image credit: Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF

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