Astronomers have made a groundbreaking discovery that provides direct evidence of the process that forms neutron stars and black holes, according to a recent article published in Nature. This significant finding confirms that the collapse of massive stars’ cores gives rise to the densest objects in the Universe.
The evidence for this cosmic phenomenon comes from the observation of a nearby supernova explosion in a neighboring galaxy. This supernova displayed unique characteristics that are consistent with the presence of compact objects like neutron stars and black holes. Until now, scientists had been relying on post-explosion observations, such as the existence of neutron stars in our own Milky Way, to understand this process.
Stars, as they near the end of their lifespan, eventually run out of fuel for fusion reactions. As a result, the tremendous gravitational forces cause their cores to collapse. The type of object that is formed depends on the star’s mass. Smaller stars produce white dwarfs, while stars between 8 and 30 times the mass of our Sun collapse into neutron stars. On the other hand, stars with masses exceeding 30 solar masses become black holes.
However, previous knowledge about this process was solely based on observing its aftermath. Now, with the observation of supernova SN 2022jli in a spiral galaxy 75 million light-years away, astronomers have been able to witness the process in real time. The supernova displayed periodic changes in brightness, which were attributed to its binary companion star. It is believed that the interaction between the remnant of SN 2022jli and its companion star caused these variations in brightness.
Despite this breakthrough discovery, the exact nature of the object formed by the collapse of SN 2022jli’s core remains unknown. It could be either a black hole or a neutron star. This uncertainty highlights the fascinating complexity of stellar processes.
This remarkable achievement represents the culmination of decades of observations, analyses, and theories. It provides researchers with a much deeper understanding of black holes and neutron stars, shedding light on some of the most enigmatic objects in the Universe. As scientific exploration continues to push boundaries, new insights into the mysteries of the cosmos are likely to emerge.