Youngest supernova remnant found in the Milky Way

VLA image of G1.9+0.3
Radio telescope image of G1.9+0.3
Credit: VLA

A team of international astronomers have recently discovered what is thought to be the youngest supernovae remnant in our own galaxy, the Milky Way. A supernova remnant (or SNR) is the material that is explosively blown away from a dying during a supernova event.

From observations (see right) made with the Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope (see below) in the United States, astronomers are able to calculate that the SNR, known as G1.9+0.3, is just 150 years old. As the object is thought to be close to the centre of our galaxy, the SNR is obscured by large amounts of gas and dust, which means that no one would have seen the supernova explosion when it took place around 1850. Today, scientists can use X-ray and radio emission observations to see the ongoing aftermath of the explosion, as observations at these wavelengths are able to pass through the obscuring dust and gas much better than optical light can.

The VLA is one of the world's premier astronomical radio observatories, and consists of 27 radio antennas in a Y-shaped configuration on a desert plain fifty miles west of Socorro, New Mexico. Each antenna is 25 metres (82 feet) in diameter and weighs about 230 tons. The data from the antennas is combined electronically to give the resolution of an antenna 36km (22 miles) across, with the sensitivity of a dish 130 metres (422 feet) in diameter.

Very Large Array (VLA) Radio Telescopes
Image of the Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescopes in New Mexico, USA.
Credit: VLA