For calcium, most people think of milk, teeth, and bones. Perhaps surprisingly, most of the calcium in the universe, including the calcium in our bodies, comes from the death of stars. Scientists have been studying calcium-rich supernovae, a so rare star explosion that astrophysicists find and study. Due to its rarity, the nature of this type of supernova and the mechanism sewage-producing calcium have been a mystery. The team from Northwestern University may have uncovered the true nature of these mysterious events. For the first time, an calcium-rich supernova has been studied using X-ray imaging.
X-ray imaging provides us with an unprecedented view of the star’s progress in its final month of life and its eventual explosion. The researchers’ findings suggest that the calcium-rich supernova is a compact star that sheds outer gas in the final stages of its life. When a star explodes, matter collides with loose matter in the shell, producing huge bright X-rays.
Explosions cause intense high temperatures and pressures, causing nuclear fusion to produce calcium. Because this type of supernova is so rare, scientists say they have no idea what produces calcium-rich supernovae. By looking inside the last month before the star exploded, the researchers said, they were able to observe previously unexplored areas and open up new avenues of research in transient science.
Before X-ray observations, the scientific community may or may not have indirect information about calcium-rich supernovae. The team says it is now possible to confidently rule out several possibilities. The team studied supernovae as SN 2019ehk. Its short-lived lightness indicates that the star lost very little of its material before it exploded, and that it was still nearby. No one knew the star existed until it exploded because it was too dark to be observed.