Research Article

Old supernova dust factory revealed at the Galactic center

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Science  24 Apr 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6233, pp. 413-418
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa2208

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Zap the dust away? Not so fast

It would be great to clean up dust by vaporizing it, but even powerful blasting by an exploding star doesn't seem capable of this. Supernovae produce vast amounts of dust, but it is a mystery how that dust survives ensuing hostile conditions. Lau et al. used the SOFIA telescope to observe the dust associated with the supernova remnant Sgr A East. They found that this dust had endured far longer than expected, which indicates that dust in the universe's oldest galaxies can also be attributed to supernovae.

Science, this issue p. 413


Dust formation in supernova ejecta is currently the leading candidate to explain the large quantities of dust observed in the distant, early universe. However, it is unclear whether the ejecta-formed dust can survive the hot interior of the supernova remnant (SNR). We present infrared observations of ~0.02 solar masses of warm (~100 kelvin) dust seen near the center of the ~10,000-year-old Sagittarius A East SNR at the Galactic center. Our findings indicate the detection of dust within an older SNR that is expanding into a relatively dense surrounding medium (electron density ~103 centimeters–3) and has survived the passage of the reverse shock. The results suggest that supernovae may be the dominant dust-production mechanism in the dense environment of galaxies of the early universe.

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