Type Ia supernovae happen when a white dwarf, the “corpse” of a star similar to the Sun, absorbs material from a twin star until it reaches a critical mass--1.4 times that of the Sun—and explodes. Because of their origin, all these explosions share a very similar luminosity. This uniformity made type Ia supernovae ideal objects to measure distances in the universe, but the study of supernova 2014J suggests a scenario that would invalidate them as “standard candles".
A new model postulating the fusion of two white dwarfs is now challenging the predominant one, consisting of a white dwarf and a normal star. The new scenario does not imply the existence of a maximum mass limit and will not, therefore, necessarily produce explosions of similar luminosity.
Radio observation makes it possible to reveal what stellar systems lie behind type Ia supernovae. If the explosion proceeds from a white dwarf being nourished by a twin star, for example, a great amount of gas should be present in the environment; after the explosion, the material ejected by the supernova will collide with this gas and produce an intense emission of X rays and radio waves. By contrast, a couple of white dwarfs will not generate this gaseous envelope and, therefore, there will be no emission of either X rays or radio waves.
Stellar flares, winds and coronal mass ejections form the space weather. They are signatures of the magnetic activity of cool stars and, since activity varies with age, mass and rotation, the space weather that extra-solar planets experience can be very different from the one encountered by the solar system planets. How do stellar activity and magnetism influence the space weather of exoplanets orbiting main-sequence stars? How do the environments surrounding exoplanets differ from those around the planets in our own solar system? How can the detailed knowledge acquired by the solar system community be applied in exoplanetary systems? How does space weather affect habitability? These were questions that were addressed in the splinter session "Cool stars and Space Weather", that took place on 9 Jun 2014, during the Cool Stars 18 meeting. In this paper, we present a summary of the contributions made to this session.
Read the summary paper from the Proceedings of the 18th Cambridge Workshop on Cool Stars, Stellar Systems, and the Sun.
NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) has captured an extreme and rare event in the regions immediately surrounding a supermassive black hole. A compact source of X-rays that sits near the black hole, called the corona, has moved closer to the black hole over a period of just days.
"We still don't understan exactly how the corona is produced or why it changes its shape, but we see it lighting up material around the black hole, enabling us to study the regions so close in that effects described by Einstein's theory of general relativity become prominent," said NuSTAR Principal Investigator Fiona Harrison of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
Astronomers and astrophysicists have found that some of the Universe’s loneliest supernovae are likely created by the collisions of white dwarf stars into neutron stars.
The study was led by the University of Warwick and involved research from the University of Leicester. It is published by the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
“Our paper examines so-called `calcium-rich' transients” says Dr Joseph Lyman, from Warwick. “These are luminous explosions that last on the timescales of weeks, however, they're not as bright and don't last as long as traditional supernovae, which makes them difficult to discover and study in detail”.
Previous studies had shown that calcium comprised up to half of the material thrown off in such explosions compared to only a tiny fraction in normal supernovae. This means that these curious events may actually be the dominant producers of calcium in our universe.