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‘Lost star’ caught on camera helps finally solve space mystery after decades

‘Lost star’ caught on camera helps finally solve space mystery after decades

Researchers finally have evidence that the star exists

A 'lost star' has finally been caught on camera proving to scientists that it exists.

It's taken three decades, but astronomers have finally found evidence that the neutron star is at the centre of a supernova named 1987A - the only explosion that's been visible to the human eye in hundreds of years.

A neutron star is a celestial object, believed to be created by the collapse of a gigantic star in a supernova explosion.

Remnants of a supernova can turn into one of two things - either a black hole or a neutron star.

Thanks to a new study using the James Webb Space Telescope, researchers have been able to observe the supernova at infrared wavelengths.

Previously, scientists had not been able to detect any objects produced during the supernova, which meant it was impossible to know whether a neutron star from supernova 1987A existed or whether it was simply a black hole.

Although astronomers believed the star to exist - due to sub-atomic particles being found nearly four decades ago - they could not be sure.

The neutron star has been caught on camera.

But thanks to the telescope, argon and sulfur atoms have now been detected, which experts believe could only exist from the radiation produced by a neutron star.

Co-author of the study - which was published in the journal Science - Professor Mike Barlow, from University College London, said: "Our detection with James Webb's MIRI and NIRSpec spectrometers of strong ionized argon and sulfur emission lines from the very center of the nebula that surrounds Supernova 1987A is direct evidence of the presence of a central source of ionizing radiation.

"Our data can only be fitted with a neutron star as the power source of that ionizing radiation.

"This radiation can be emitted from the million-degree surface of the hot neutron star, as well as by a pulsar wind nebula that could have been created if the neutron star is rapidly spinning and dragging charged particles around it.

Supernova 1987A took place in 1987.
CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

"The mystery over whether a neutron star is hiding in the dust has lasted for more than 30 years and it is exciting that we have solved it."

The study involved researchers from across the globe.

Professor Barlow added that we can expect to see more of the neutron star due to the objects expanding.

"There is no other object like the neutron star in Supernova 1987A, so close to us and having formed so recently," he said.

"Because the material surrounding it is expanding, we will see more of it as time goes on."

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: Space, Science