Astronomers Tuesday announced they had detected a source of light near a star that exploded in 1987, a mysterious "companion" to the exploded star that could help scientists understand the rare phenomenon.
The nature of the source of light is unknown but it could be debris or energy from the explosion that is flying outward from the exploded star, which is known as a supernova, one of the scientists said."There are a lot of different possibilities," said Peter Nisenson, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who was part of the team.
"The most likely thing at this point is that it's related to something ejected from the supernova. It may be a chunk of material or an energetic jet that's running into something that's out there. That's one of many possibilities," he said.
The scientists planned to continue to study and monitor the light source, which is about 2.6 magnitudes fainter than the supernova and may give clues to the explosion.
"It could have important implications in figuring out exactly how the supernova exploded and what happened during the explosion," he said.
The exploded star, named Supernova 1987A, was discovered in the Large Magellanic Cloud in February 1987. The exploding star was the closest and brightest seen in more than 400 years and the first detected early enough to allow scientists to study its development.
Since then astronomers have made a variety of observations in connection with the exploding star and have continued to observe it.
Nisenson and his colleagues have been monitoring the supernova with Steve Heathcote of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile using a 13-foot telescope.