A group of astronomers has been able to follow stardust being made in real time — during the aftermath of a supernova explosion. For the first time they show that these cosmic dust factories make their grains in a two-stage process, starting soon after the explosion, but continuing for years afterwards. The team used ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in northern Chile to analyze the light from the supernova SN 2010jl as it slowly faded. The new results are published online in the journal Nature on 9 July 2014.
The origin of cosmic dust in galaxies is still a mystery . Astronomers know that supernovae may be the primary source of dust, especially in the early universe, but it is still unclear how and where dust grains condense and grow. It is also unclear how they avoid destruction in the harsh environment of a star-forming galaxy. But now, observations using ESO’s VLT at the Paranal Observatory in northern Chile are lifting the veil for the first time. Read More …