44Ti gamma-ray emission lines from SN1987A reveal an asymmetric explosion

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Science  08 May 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6235, pp. 670-671
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa2259

Stellar metals shine toward our eyes only

Taking a different look at a familiar star may still yield surprises. Boggs et al. trained the x-ray vision of the NuSTAR observatory on the well-studied supernova 1987A. Core-collapse explosions such as SN 1987A produce a titanium isotope, 44Ti, whose radioactive decay yields hard x-ray emission lines. All the emission associated with 44Ti appears to be from material moving toward us, with none moving away. This implies that the explosion was not symmetric. These findings help to explain the mechanics of SN 1987A and of core-collapse supernovae in general.

Science, this issue p. 670


In core-collapse supernovae, titanium-44 (44Ti) is produced in the innermost ejecta, in the layer of material directly on top of the newly formed compact object. As such, it provides a direct probe of the supernova engine. Observations of supernova 1987A (SN1987A) have resolved the 67.87- and 78.32–kilo–electron volt emission lines from decay of 44Ti produced in the supernova explosion. These lines are narrow and redshifted with a Doppler velocity of ~700 kilometers per second, direct evidence of large-scale asymmetry in the explosion.

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