Dust formation by supernovae and asymptotic giant branch stars

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: School of Physics and Astronomy

Abstract

The main visible components of galaxies are stars and the interstellar medium (ISM). The ISM is filled with gas and dust, with dust taking only less than 1% of the total mass. Despite dust occupying such a small fraction of mass, its unique properties make it important for astronomy: dust can absorb and scatter star-light in ultra-violet and optical wavelengths and re-emit the absorbed energy in infrared and submillimetre wavelengths. This dust turns harmful UV photons to soft infrared and submillimetre light, thus protecting molecules, and providing a cradle for star formation. Empirically, it is known that galaxies that undergo extensive star-formation tend to be dusty, and emit more energy at infrared and submillimetre wavelengths. Yet, it is still unknown why these galaxies are so dusty in the first place.

To form dust, atoms such as carbon, silicon, oxygen and iron, need to meet with other atoms. Consecutive meeting and bonding of atoms makes dust grow, ending up with a dust grain composed of hundreds and thousands of refractory elements. The reaction is efficient where gas is reasonably hot and dense, and where many refractory elements are available. The surroundings of asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars, which are in the late stage of stellar evolution for 1-8 solar mass stars, provides an ideal place to make dust, as there is dense gas with some newly synthesised elements by the stars. Older textbooks usually describe the dust content of the ISM originating from AGB stars.

A decade of advances in observational astronomy has challenged this traditional description of dust origin. Many high-redshift galaxies, located deep in space and observed less than one billion years old after the big bang, have been found to be much dustier than expected if dust is produced by AGB stars only. Hence, there must be some other objects to make a lot of dust within these galaxies.

Theories have proposed that supernovae (SNe) can be an additional and significant dust source that makes galaxies dusty. SNe are the enormous explosion of massive stars at the end their lives, hence ejecting elements synthesised in stars into space. An explosion of SN 1987A was detected in the neighbouring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud. The explosion was initially recorded in optical light, and neutrinos were also detected. Twenty-five years after I and colleagues found that the remnant of SN 1987A is filled with cold dust and molecules. Our observations with the Herschel Space Observatory and the Atacama Millemetre/submillemtre Array (ALMA) began to reveal that the supernova remnant has became cool, but is still dense enough for dust to form. The estimated mass of dust is about 0.5 solar mass, which is enough dust mass to make young galaxies dusty.

A deficit of dust input has been suggested not only in high-redshift galaxies, but also in neighbouring galaxies. Of course, one possibility is that SNe are significant sources of dust in these galaxies as well. But an alternative view is that galaxies have acquired a large mass of dust in the past, but that they are now in a quiescent phase of dust formation, as there are not so many dust-forming stars at present. Combining new techniques introduced by the Spitzer and GAIA missions we can detangle these issues.

My project aims to quantify the dust mass formed in supernovae and seeks to determine the physical and chemical process that lead to the formation in stars. In parallel, the project aims to elucidate what galaxy properties can have an impact on dust formation from stars, or vice-versa. The project will lead the way so we can build a full picture of the origin and evolution of dust in the Milky Way, nearby galaxies and high-redshift galaxies. The project will design the observing programs for future space missions JWST and SPICA. The outcome of this project has a potential to impact astrophysical processes involving dust, such as star-formation, stellar evolution and galaxy evolution.

Publications

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Alp D (2018) The 30 Year Search for the Compact Object in SN 1987A in The Astrophysical Journal

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Andrews J. E. (2016) Early dust formation and a massive progenitor for SN 2011ja? in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Andrews J. E. (2016) Early dust formation and a massive progenitor for SN 2011ja? in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Baes Maarten (2017) Measuring the dust content and formation in SN 1987A using detailed radiative transfer modelling in Supernova 1987A:30 years later - Cosmic Rays and Nuclei from Supernovae and their Aftermaths

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Bevan A (2019) A decade of ejecta dust formation in the Type IIn SN 2005ip in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Chawner H (2019) A catalogue of Galactic supernova remnants in the far-infrared: revealing ejecta dust in pulsar wind nebulae in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Chawner H (2020) A complete catalogue of dusty supernova remnants in the Galactic plane in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Chawner H (2020) A Galactic dust devil: far-infrared observations of the Tornado supernova remnant candidate in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

 
Description Our research measured the elements that were synthesised by a supernova. That illustrate how the elements were formed in the universe and spread across.
Exploitation Route The editor of the book,'Handbook of Supernovae' asked me to write a contributing chapter. Also invited to write further two review papers, which were accepted.
Sectors Education

 
Description The outcome of the research was attracted press-release that was widely communicated via international media, such as BBC and Scientific American. The outcome was also presented at public lecturing, outreach talks for amateur astronomical societies.
Sector Education
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description Cardiff University - KU Leuven Staff mobility grant
Amount £600 (GBP)
Organisation Cardiff University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2016 
End 06/2016
 
Description Royal Astronomical Society travelling grant
Amount £1,200 (GBP)
Organisation Royal Astronomical Society 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2015 
End 08/2015
 
Description The Royal Astronomical Society OAD grant
Amount £1,000 (GBP)
Organisation Royal Astronomical Society 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2018 
End 07/2018
 
Description JCMT NESS consortium 
Organisation Academia Sinica
Department Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics
Country Taiwan, Province of China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Writing overview of the scientific field of the project proposal, which was accepted by as a JCMT large program.
Collaborator Contribution The PI lead the management and data reduction of the project
Impact Publications of papers, including Dharmawardena et al. (2019)
Start Year 2017
 
Description Lueven 
Organisation University of Leuven
Department Institute of Astronomy
Country Belgium 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Developing models for extragalactic stars
Collaborator Contribution Providing a code for stars that would be developed for extragalactic stars
Impact The collaboration is just started, and outputs are yet to appear.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Appearance in an article of Nature Astronomy 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact This article reports our hard work of supernova 1987A over 30 years. This anniversary got a lot of attentions, including this media appearance, broadening the interest of supernovae/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Appearance on magazine 'Astronomy' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Appeared on an article about Supernova 1987A on the magazine,'Astronomy' March 2017 issue
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.astronomy.com/issues/2017/march-2017
 
Description Discussion panel for carrier development meeting for post-doc and PhD students 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact I sat down as one of the discussion panel for carrier development meeting for post-doc and PhD students at National Astronomical Observatory of Japan. There were a lot of questions about how to develop career beyond Japan.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Elementary school visit and lectures 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact I have given two lectures to 11-12 years old school pupils. They were so keen and connect their knowledge to my own research with their minds. Hope they will be interested in science in future.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Featured in an article in Quanta Magazine 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact As a consequence of the press release of our scientific results, our work features in an article, widening the interest to general public.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Featuring Science Cafe on BBC Wales 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact After the press release of our latest research, BBC Wales invited us for an interview for Science Cafe. This definitely helps people interested in Science.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Invited talk at British Astronomical Association 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This is an annually meeting for amateur astronomers, and I was invited to give a talk about it.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description NASA press release 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This is a press release with a vide about our latest research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.nasa.gov/feature/sofia-finds-dust-survives-obliteration-in-supernova-1987a
 
Description News article 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact An article about Subaru image of the Helix Nebula on Newsletter of 'National Astronomical Observatory of Japan', no. 261, April 1st, 2015
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Outreach talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact About 30 amateur astronomers attended the talk, and debated the origin of dust in universe afterwards
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Outreach talk at Bristol Astronomical Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Outreach talk at Bristol Astronomical Society. The audience were interested in the subject, and I recommend my colleague from Cardiff University to present a similar topic in future.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Outreach talk at Cardiff Astronomical Society, 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The talk at the Cardiff Astronomical Society was successful, and they introduced me for further astronomical societies nearby.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Press release from Cardiff University with media coverage, including BBC, Scientific America 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact The press release was covered by international media, including
https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/news/view/1726026-scientists-find-evidence-of-missing-neutron-star
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-50473482
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-missing-neutron-star-may-have-been-found-after-30-year-hunt/
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-7706073/Location-missing-neutron-star-finally-30-years.html
https://www.newscientist.com/article/2224110-weve-found-the-missing-neutron-star-at-the-centre-of-a-supernova/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-50473482
 
Description Public lecture 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Lecturing at your Universe, UCL, 27th April 2015. About 50 pupils attended.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Public talk at Abergavenny Astronomical Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The outreach talk attracted about 15 amateur astronomers with much debate afterwards
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Public talk at Hereford Astronomical Society, Hereford 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Public talk about astronomy and about 30 amateur astronomers attended
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Talk at Guildford Astronomical Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Made a lot of discussions about latest ALMA results
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018