One of our favorite telescopes in the world – the ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), has aided in spotting a couple of stars set to collide. At the center of the planetary nebula Henize 2-428, two stars orbit one another.
These two planetary bodies are both dwarf stars drawing ever-nearer to each other, eventually set to touch and create one massive explosion. A thermonuclear explosion, that is to say, with a Type “la” supernova to follow. Sadly, none of us living today will be around to see this event, as it’ll take place some 700 years from now.
A team lead by Miguel Santander-García, Observatorio Astronómico Nacional, Alcalá de Henares, Spain; Instituto de Ciencia de Materiales de Madrid (CSIC), Madrid, Spain, has observed this close pair of stars. A team of astronomers using ESO facilities have teamed with telescopes in the Canary Islands to see this heavenly conglomeration.
Also on the team were Henri Boffin from ESO, Romano Corradi, researcher at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (Tenerife, IAC), and David Jones, ESO Fellow at the time the data was obtained.
At the ESO you’ll see Boffin suggesting that “when we looked at this object’s central star with ESO’s Very Large Telescope, we found not just one but a pair of stars at the heart of this strangely lopsided glowing cloud.”
“Further observations,” added Corradi, “made with telescopes in the Canary Islands allowed us to determine the orbit of the two stars and deduce both the masses of the two stars and their separation.”
“This was when the biggest surprise was revealed.”