Nasa’s SOFIA: Helps to Find the Missing Link Between  a Supernova and Creation of a Planet

A supernova is a stellar explosion that outshines an entire galaxy and via Nasa’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), the international scientific team has found out that supernovae are capable of producing a substantial amount of the material from which planets like Earth can be formed.

“Our observations reveal a particular cloud produced by a supernova explosion 10,000 years ago contains enough dust to make 7,000 Earths,” said Ryan Lau of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, in a paper that appeared in the journal Science.

The research team used SOFIA’s airborne telescope and the Faint Object InfraRed Camera for the SOFIA Telescope to take detailed infrared images of an interstellar dust cloud known as Supernova Remnant Sagittarius A East, or SNR Sgr A East.

The team used SOFIA documents to make approximation for the total mass of dust in the cloud from the intensity of its emission.

Astronomers already hold proof that substantial amount of dust can be produce by a supernova’s outward-moving shock wave.

“The dust survived the later onslaught of shock waves from the supernova explosion, and is now flowing into the interstellar medium where it can become part of the ‘seed material’ for new stars and planets,” Lau added.

These results also reveal the possibility that the vast amount of dust observed in distant young galaxies may have been made by supernova explosions of early massive stars, as no other known mechanism could have produced nearly as much dust.

According to Pamela Marcum, a SOFIA project scientist at Ames Research Center , California that this discovery is a special feather in the cap for SOFIA, demonstrating how observations made within our own Milky Way galaxy can bear directly on our understanding of the evolution of galaxies billions of light years away.

SOFIA is a heavily modified Boeing 747 jetliner that carries a telescope with an effective diameter of 2.5 metres at altitudes of 12 to 14 km. SOFIA is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center

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