Webb finds evidence for neutron star at heart of young supernova remnant | Science & Technology

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has found the best evidence yet for emission from a neutron star at the site of a recently observed supernova. The supernova, known as SN 1987A, was a core-collapse supernova, meaning the compacted remains at its core formed either a neutron star or a black hole. Evidence for such a compact object has long been sought, and while indirect evidence for the presence of a neutron star has previously been found, this is the first time that the effects of high-energy emission from the probable young neutron star have been detected.

Supernovae — the explosive final death throes of some massive stars — blast out within hours, and the brightness of the explosion peaks within a few months. The remains of the exploding star will continue to evolve at a rapid rate over the following decades, offering a rare opportunity for astronomers to study a key astronomical process in real time.

Supernova 1987A

The supernova SN 1987A occurred 160,000 light-years from Earth in the Large Magellanic Cloud. It was first observed on Earth in February 1987, and its brightness peaked in May of that year. It was the first supernova that could be seen with the naked eye since Kepler’s Supernova was observed in 1604.

About two hours prior to the first visible-light observation of SN 1987A, three observatories around the world detected a burst of neutrinos lasting only a few seconds. The two different types of observations were linked to the same supernova event, and provided important evidence to inform the theory of how core-collapse supernovae take place. This theory included the expectation that this type of supernova would form a neutron star or a black hole. Astronomers have searched for evidence for one or the other of these compact objects at the center of the expanding remnant material ever since.

Indirect evidence for the presence of a neutron star at the center of the remnant has been found in the past few years, and observations of much older…

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