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Rare super-luminous supernova shining with borrowed energy source spotted

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    Science & Technology
  • Published
    13th Jul, 2021


An extremely bright, hydrogen deficient, fast-evolving supernova that shines with the energy borrowed from an exotic type of neutron star with an ultra-powerful magnetic field has been spotted by Indian researchers.

What are Supernovae (SNe)?

  • Supernovae (SNe) are highly energetic explosions of ‘dead stars’ in the universe.
  • The superluminous supernovae (SLSNe) among them are very rare.This is because
    • They generally originate from very massive stars (minimum mass limit is more than 25-times that of the sun)
    • The distribution of such massive stars in our galaxy or in nearby ones is sparse.
  • Among them, SLSNe-I has been counted to about 150 entities spectroscopically confirmed so far.
  • These ancient objects are among the least understood SNe because their underlying sources are unclear, and their extremely high peak luminosity is unexplained using the conventional SN power-source model involving Ni56 - Co56 - Fe56 decay.
  • The apparent look of the SN was very similar to other objects in the field.
  • However, once the brightness was estimated, it turned out as a very blue object reflecting its brighter character.

About the Study

  • The SN 2020ank was first discovered by the Zwicky Transient Facility on January 19, 2020.
  • Now, it was studied by scientists from Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES) Nainital (from February 2020 and then through the coronavirus lockdown phase of March and April).
    • It is a research institute under the Department of Science and Technology (DST).

Future prospects

  • The study established the role of 6. DOT in exploring very rare distant SLSNe in the future.
  • Deeper investigations could explore the underlying physical mechanisms, possible progenitors, and environments hosting such rare explosions and their possible associations with other energetic explosions like Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) and Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs).

Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs)

  • In gamma-ray astronomy, gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are immensely energetic explosions that have been observed in distant galaxies. They are the brightest and most energetic electromagnetic events known to occur in the universe. 

Fast radio bursts (FRBs)

  • FRBs are extraordinary events that generate as much energy in a thousandth of a second as the Sun does in an entire year.