In a surprising first, scientists might have observed a supernova turning into a black hole or neutron star. This supernova may have been a missing link between stars and black holes, the astronomers say.
For decades, astronomers have hoped to find direct observational evidence of the stellar process that changes stars to black holes or neutron stars. And now, while observing a supernova detected last year, researchers may have found such evidence.
When a star reaches the end of its lifespan, it runs out of the fuel needed to sustain fusion. Because that process keeps stars burning, when they run out of fuel, they start to eject their outer material, and the core collapses, creating a supernova that eventually turns into a black hole or a neutron star.
Now, researchers say that they may have discovered the missing link between supernovas and black holes, as they observed a supernova first spotted last year. Known as SN 2022iji, the supernova exploded in a spiral galaxy known as NGC 157. Scientists immediately turned their telescopes toward the event and watched to see what would happen.
What they saw was riveting. Instead of simply fading away as they expected, the supernova began to see periodic changes in brightness, with the star growing brighter every 12.4 days over the 200 days that they watched it. Then, it would gradually dim.
The team says this is the first time that astronomers have seen repeated periodic oscillations over many cycles in a supernova light curve. As such, they believe it could be the missing link between supernovas and the creation of black holes and neutron stars that they’ve been searching for.
The researchers published their findings in the journal Nature, and they hope that future observations of supernovas will yield even more data about this possible missing link, giving us an even greater understanding of the universe we call home.