A graduate student working with a team of astronomers from Caltech detected that an unusual source of radio waves observed four years ago is the result of a black hole or neutron star hitting a companion star, according to a recent press statement.
Normally, large stars meet their unavoidable end and go supernova when their fuel runs out.
However, in this particular case, an invading black hole/neutron star kick-started its companion star to go boom, according to Gregg Hallinan, an astronomy professor of Caltech.
Dillon Dong, the Caltech graduate student, was a member of the team under Hallinan’s lead, who got the task of looking for short bursts of radio waves, also referred to as radio transients.
These are most frequently the signals specifically emitted by peculiar astronomical events.
The research was based on data from the Very Large Array (VLA) Sky Survey, which helped Dong bring an especially strong radio transient known as VT 1210+4956 to the team’s attention.
After additional analysis, Dong and the team found out that, even more curiously, X-rays mentioned in a separate survey were originating from the same event.
Dong explained that the scientists he teamed up in are analyzing the VLA Sky Survey with certain goals while also staying open-minded.
Still, what they observed was referred to as an unusual event.
“The X-ray transient was an unusual event — it signaled that a relativistic jet was launched at the time of the explosion. “And the luminous radio glow indicated that the material from that explosion later crashed into a massive torus of dense gas that had been ejected from the star centuries earlier. These two events have never been associated with each other, and on their own, they’re very rare,” said Dong.The scientists believe that a leftover remnant of a star that exploded at some point had been gravitating in the proximity of another star.
The black hole progressively stripped the star from its atmosphere, forming a torus of gas.
Progressively, the stars got dragged closer together before the black hole affected the star directly, making it collapse and go supernova.
The provoke led to the emission of X-rays while the radio transient occurred years later when the star reached the torus of gas it emitted previously.
Similar collisions have only been theorized about in the past, and Dong’s findings are the first undoubtable proof that such an event can happen in the universe.
This is yet another sign that there is so much that we don’t know about what is truly going on out there, which means that scientists will have to study the stars for a lot longer.
Missions like NASA’s James Webb Telescope, which will be launched in a matter of a few months, promise to retrieve crucial data for astronomers working on such projects, helping them fill blanks in their knowledge base and form new hypotheses regarding the birth and death of stars like our sun.