Probing the Remnants of Supernovae
Without supernovae, the periodic table would be a lot easier to memorize. Many of the known elements listed on the periodic table, including elements absolutely essential for human life, were first created during the lifecycles of stars as they exploded in supernovae.
And that's only one reason that supernovae fascinate astronomers and physicists. Remnants of supernovae tell us how stars are born and die, and how cosmic rays get accelerated to extremely high energies. Supernovae also leave behind neutron stars—super dense objects as small as a city like Winnipeg, but as massive as the sun. These neutrons stars can have surfaces that are hotter than millions of degrees Celsius, and magnetic fields that are more than a trillion times stronger than the Earth's.
Dr. Samar Safi-Harb, Canada Research Chair in Supernova Remnants Astrophysics, is researching supernova remnants and their associated neutron stars and nebulae. Most of these remnants are invisible to even the most powerful optical telescopes. But, luckily for researchers, the X-ray light from these remnants can reach us from thousands and even millions of light-years away.
Safi-Harb is exploring supernova remnants to unlock some of the mysteries that surround these objects, including the fascinating way they energize their surroundings.
Her research will help us understand the physics and diversity of these fascinating objects, and will eventually shed light on the recycling of matter and energy in our galaxy. It will also enhance our appreciation for the vast universe.