NASA finds new information from star that exploded more than 450 years ago

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NASA obtained new information from the exploded Tycho Supernova, which was first seen from Earth in 1752. Photo courtesy of NASA

Feb. 28 (UPI) — A group of scientists has uncovered new information from a star that exploded more than 450 years ago, propelling particles to near the speed of light.

Astronomers used NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer to study the remains of a supernova called Tycho. They were able to discover how Tycho accelerates particles closer to the speed of light than any particle accelerator on Earth.

“As one of the so-called historical supernovae, Tycho was observed by humanity in the past, and had a lasting social and even artistic impact,” Dr. Riccardo Ferrazzoli, a researcher at the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics in Rome, which partners with NASA on the IXPE mission, said in a statement. “It’s exciting to be here, 450 years after its first appearance in the sky, to see this object again with new eyes and to learn from it.”

According to NASA, the Tycho supernova blast itself released as much energy as the Sun would put out over the course of 10 billion years. The blast was visible to many on Earth in 1572.

By looking at the shape of Tycho’s magnetic field, astronomers were able to come as close as they ever have to observing the source of the cosmic rays emitted by a supernova.

“The process by which a supernova remnant becomes a giant particle accelerator involves a delicate dance between order and chaos,” Patrick Slane, senior astrophysicist at the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said in a statement. “Strong and turbulent magnetic fields are required, but IXPE is showing us that there is a large-scale uniformity, or coherence, involved as well, extending right down to the sites where the acceleration is taking place.”

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