Life and death are part of a cycle. When an animal dies, its body decays, releasing important nutrients into the ground. Those nutrients then help birth other life in the form of plants and microorganisms. This may be true for galaxies too. New Webb observations could help us learn more about the fuel that young, early galaxy’s use to form stars and planets.
Supernovas are the deaths of stars and are some of the largest bursts of energy and light released in our universe, astronomers say. Now, new Webb observations of two supernovas in the Fireworks Galaxy (NGC 6946) could provide some clues as to how early galaxies got the dust they needed to fuel star birth.
According to an STScI release, as well as a new paper published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, dust from these supernovas was ejected from the explosion, which could have then been used by nearby forming galaxies to help fuel star and planet birth. Dust is essential to the formation of many objects in our universe, including planets.
Dust ejected by a dying stellar would be a plausible source of cosmic particles that could have fuelled the formation of galaxies during the early days of the universe. Melissa Shahbandeh of John Hopkins University, Space Telescope Science Institute and STScI explained that direct evidence for this was very limited up to these recent Webb observations.
Webb’s latest observations are the first real breakthrough in the study of how dust is produced by supernovae since early detection by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) almost ten years ago. But it isn’t just the detection of dust that makes it so intriguing, it’s also how much dust the researchers detected using James Webb. In fact, they found more than 5,000 Earth masses of dust.
With that much dust, several young galaxies could have fueled the growth of their stars and planets. And this is just how much was discovered in a single supernova. If you start adding up all the supernovas out there, including those James Webb hasn’t observed, you’re looking at more than enough dust to fuel the growth of the early universe.
Now, it remains to see if that dust is still a fuel source for star and planet formation.
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