Astronomers can now better understand cosmic dust than ever before by observing the after-effects of a supernova.
An international team of scientists used European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT), which is located in northern Chile, and observed the light emited by a supernova, code named SN2010jl, as it gradually fainted away.
For long scientists have been aware that cosmic dust makes stars and planets. However, scientists are still not sure how cosmic dust comes into existence. Some astrophysicists believe that cosmic dust is formed after a supernova, an explosion or death of stars in the space. Previous studies revealed that supernovas produce little cosmic dust, when compared to the actual amount of material present in the Universe.
Scientists say that with the help of the X-shooter spectrograph they observed SN2010jl, which exploded in a galaxy called UGC 5189A. They observed the supernova on nine ocassions just after a few months it exploded and then on the tenth ocassion around 2.5 years after the supernova explosion.
"By combining the data from the nine early sets of observations we were able to make the first direct measurements of how the dust around a supernova absorbs the different colors of light," says lead author Christa Gall from Aarhus University, Denmark. "This allowed us to find out more about the dust than had been possible before."
The astronomers revealed that cosmic dust starts forming very soon after the star has explosed and carries on the formation process for a very long period. The latest observation also unveiled details of what the cosmic dust was made of, as well as the size of the dust particles.
Gall and her team discovered that dust particles, which are over a thousandth of a millimeter in diameter were created quickly.
Jens Hjorth from the Niels Bohr Institute of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, who is also the co-author of the study says that the teams analysis of large dust grain after the star explosion suggests that there is definately a speedy and efficient process that creates them. The co-author adds that they do not know how it actually happens.
The scientists believe that the dust particles may have formed even before the explosion. When the shockwave of the supernova expanded it produced a cool and thick shell of gas, which became an ideal environment for the dust grains to grow.
The latest discovery has been published in the online journal Nature on Wednesday, July 9.