Condor Array Telescope confirms Chinese astrological data of ‘new star’ spotted in 77 BC

By | March 19, 2024

The first data from a new telescope array have arrived.

The Condor Array has revealed a stunning view of a distant dwarf nova – a scene that gives astronomers a new view of the universe at very low brightness to marvel at.

Condor consists of six refracting telescopes, united by computers to form a giant telescope conglomerate that can detect and study objects too faint to be seen with a normal telescope. single telescope. One of the first missions assigned to Condor was to focus on the dwarf nova called Z Camelopardalis. In particular, American Museum of Natural History researcher Michael M. Shara wanted to know if this dwarf nova had anything to do with a “new star” that Chinese imperial astrologers discovered in 77 B.C. have recorded.

The new telescope array not only strengthened this link, but also discovered intriguing, never-before-seen features of the dwarf nova. Since it was first observed in visible light by astronomer Henry Park Hollis in 1904, the object has been studied in great detail. So it’s quite exciting to find new information about it.

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Shy novas coming out of their shell

Dwarf novas are a separate class of supernova explosions that occur in two ways.

The first way involves a white dwarf stellar remnant that gradually transfers matter from a companion star to its own surface. This siphoning continues until the process causes a thermonuclear explosion. The second path that can lead to a dwarf nova, on the other hand, involves a huge amount of material from a companion star suddenly being “dumped” onto the white dwarf with the same thermonuclear result.

In January 2007, an image of Z Camelopardalis taken by the Kitt Peak National Observatory’s 4-meter telescope appeared to show that it is surrounded by a partial shell of gas that may have been ejected during the thermonuclear explosion.

To test this idea, Shara and colleagues imaged Z Camelopardalis with Condor in November 2021 and compared it to the 2007 image. This allowed them to measure how much the shell had expanded over time and thus the speed at which the gas moved outside.

This confirmed for the team that the shell was expanding at a rate consistent with an explosion that occurred about 2,000 years ago, suggesting that this explosion could indeed be the “new star” that emerged in 77 B.C. was seen in China.

A pair of white telescopes connected to one large device.A pair of white telescopes connected to one large device.

A pair of white telescopes connected to one large device.

Shara and the team were amazed to see that Condor had been able to make out the entire gas shell surrounding Z Camelopardalis. The new telescope array also spotted a second, larger (but fainter) gas shell surrounding the dwarf nova. Such a scale is somewhat too faint to see with conventional telescopes.

“This is the first example ever found of two concentric shells surrounding a dwarf nova, and it confirms a long-standing hypothesis that concentric shells must often surround erupting novae of relatively massive white dwarfs,” Shara said.

However, this was not the extent of the nova discoveries revealed in Condor’s first data drop.

Using the telescope, Stonybrook University professor Kenneth M. Lanzetta and his team saw another extremely faint gas shell surrounding a “returning nova.” This class of novas is also caused by white dwarfs accumulating matter and becoming unstable, but the explosions occur repeatedly on time scales of less than 100 years.

One returning nova, M31N 2008-12a, is in the closest major galaxy to the Milky Way, Andromeda. It erupts every year and is surrounded by a huge “super remnant” made of dust envelopes that extend outward about 44 million light years. Other returning novas should also be surrounded by these shells, but so far they have proven elusive.

Lanzetta and colleagues saw a shell around the recurring nova KT Eridani (KT Eri), which blows its top every 40 to 50 years. This garnet is about 50 times larger than previously observed nova grenades, the team says, and appears to be the result of multiple nova grenades colliding with each other over tens of thousands of years.

Like the Milky Way, the NGC 5907 galaxy is home to faint streams of stars that wrap around it.Like the Milky Way, the NGC 5907 galaxy is home to faint streams of stars that wrap around it.

Like the Milky Way, the NGC 5907 galaxy is home to faint streams of stars that wrap around it.

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There are even more surprises in the first set of Condor data: Lanzetta and colleagues are also using the telescope to study stellar flows around the galaxy NGC 5907, a well-known spiral galaxy about 50 million light-years from Earth. These star streams are created when the larger galaxies that satellite galaxies orbit gravitationally pull on the satellites, disrupting them and drawing out stars.

Condor was a follow-up to two previous images of NGC 5907, located 50 million light-years from Earth. One from 2010 showed stellar streams forming two helix-like loops around the Milky Way, but another from 2019 lacked these features.

As with the latter image, the Condor observation of NGC 5907 appeared to lack this helix-like feature. The team suggested it was an artifact related to the image processing of the 2010 image.

The Condor Array Telescope’s findings are published in a series of four papers published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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