The remnant, named W49B, is only around 1,000 years old and only 26,000 light-years from Earth. Astronomers have called the object “rare” because of the way the supernova took place. Instead of explosively ejecting matter in all directions the way an supernova does, W49B is the result of a supernova that ejected material from a star’s poles at a higher speeds than other material, creating jets that shaped the remnant.
A paper on the phenomenon is to be published in The Astrophysical Journal.
“W49B is the first of its kind to be discovered in the galaxy,” said Laura Lopez, lead researcher on the study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). “It appears its parent star ended its life in a way that most others don’t.”
The data used in the study was obtained using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. W49B now glows brightly with X-rays, and Chandra was able to determine the distribution of elements in the remnant. The researchers found an uneven distribution of iron, matching predictions for asymmetric supernovae.
Astronomers searched for X-ray or radio pulses from the remnant, which would provide evidence for a neutron star, but found none. This suggests that a new black hole could have been formed at the core of the supernova.
“It’s a bit circumstantial, but we have intriguing evidence the W49B supernova also created a black hole,” said Daniel Castro, co-author of the paper. “If that is the case, we have a rare opportunity to study a supernova responsible for creating a young black hole.”
(Image courtesy NASA/CXC/MIT/L.Lopez et al/Palomar/NSF/NRAO/VLA)