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New Views of Supernova 1987A Reveal Giant Dust Factory 39

New submitter ihtoit writes "Astronomers using the ALMA radio telescope in Chile have released images and data showing the oft-postulated but unobserved (until now) dust shell ejected by the supernova remnant SN1987A. 'We have found a remarkably large dust mass concentrated in the central part of the ejecta from a relatively young and nearby supernova,' astronomer Remy Indebetouw, of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) and the University of Virginia, said in a statement. 'This is the first time we've been able to really image where the dust has formed, which is important in understanding the evolution of galaxies.' SN1987A was the first cataloged supernova event in our Galactic neighborhood in 1987. It lies 168,000 light years (987 quadrillion miles) away in the Large Magellanic Cloud, which means that at the time of the explosion, woolly mammoths still roamed Europe and Mitochondrial Eve saw her first sunrise." From the article, the significance: "'Really early galaxies are incredibly dusty and this dust plays a major role in the evolution of galaxies,' Mikako Matsuura, a scientist associated with the study ... said ... 'Today we know dust can be created in several ways, but in the early universe most of it must have come from supernovas. We finally have direct evidence to support that theory.'"
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New Views of Supernova 1987A Reveal Giant Dust Factory

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  • I Got To See This! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cusco ( 717999 ) <brian.bixby@gma i l . c om> on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @12:57PM (#45888587)

    In 1987-1988 I was traveling around Peru ($2000 lasted a lot longer then) for five months. I read about the supernova in an English-language newspaper someone had left in the hotel lobby, and had tried to see it but there was too much light in Cusco or Arequipa to even distinguish the Large Magellanic Cloud.

    The bus between Cusco and Puno ran only at night, but it was supposed to be non-stop and I hoped that light levels in Puno were low enough to maybe be able to walk down the shoreline of Lake Titicaca to where I could see something. Shortly after crossing 4000-meter high La Raya pass the bus blew a tire. Most of the bus just snuggled down and went back to sleep, while a few got off to take the unscheduled bathroom break while the tire was changed. I walked away from the lights of the bus and over the crest of a knoll and looked up into a blacker, more star-studded sky than I had ever imagined. Absolutely frelling stunning.

    After I recovered from the initial sight I was very quickly able to find the Large Magellanic Cloud, and offset from the center there was the first naked-eye visible supernova in over 900 years. I stayed out under that really amazing sky until I was shivering so badly from the cold that I couldn't hold my binoculars steady.

The absent ones are always at fault.