Data from the SOFIA airborne telescope shows dust surviving within a supernova remnants (Image NASA/CXO/Herschel/VLA/Lau et al)

In the journal “Science” an article was just published that discusses a research conducted by an international team of scientists who found evidence that supernovae can generate a sufficient amount of material that can later create new planets like Earth. This team, led by Ryan Lau of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, studied in particular a supernova that exploded about 10,000 years ago using a special instrument, the airborne telescope SOFIA.

The sky around the double star V471 Tauri, visible in low luminosity in the middle of the image (Image ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2)

SPHERE (Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch) is an instrument built especially to take direct pictures of exoplanets but the first scientific article based on its observations was about the binary system V471 Tauri. A group of astronomers led by Adam Hardy carried out this research, published in the journal “Astrophysical Journal Letters”, explaining why it led to a surprise.

The astronomers expected that there was a brown dwarf orbiting this double star but SPHERE didn’t find anything. It’s a surprising result because the presence of a brown dwarf was by far the most plausible explanation for the strange behavior of V471 Tauri.