Scientists believe they have finally found the dead remains of Supernova 1987A – one of their favorite star explosions.
Astronomers knew that an object should exist, but they always struggled to identify its location because of a shroud of darkening dust.
Now a UK-led team believes that the hiding place of debris can be determined by the way this dust is heated.
Researchers refer to the field of interest as "spots".
"So much hotter than its surroundings, the ash needs explanation. It really stands out from its neighboring lumps of dust," Prof. Haley Gomez of the University of Cardiff told BBC News.
When telescopes first spotted the explosion in 1987, it caused a lot of excitement.
Situated in the Great Magellanic Cloud, about 168,000 light-years from Earth – the blast was the closest, brightest supernova, observed in the night sky in 400 years.
As such, it has become a test of what we think the stars know when their fuel runs out and they crash.
Three decades on, astronomers routinely observe Supernova 1987A and its ever evolving form.
This is a nice thing – a series of bright rings, which are bands of gas and dust ejected from a star in its dying stages and which have since been excited by the expanding shockwaves emitted at the last-minute explosion.
One of these rings looks like a pearl string, and at the center of this celestial jewelry, scientists believe they have now found the rest of the star.
This should be a solid object composed entirely of neutron particles and measuring only a few tens of kilometers. The thick cloud of dust in which it sits, however, is perhaps 30 times larger than our solar system, making the neutron star impossible to see directly.
"We see recycled light, if you like. The hot neutron star heats the grain dust, and as they absorb that energy, they shine at a millimeter wavelength. That's what we find," Prof. Gomez explained.
The team investigates the area of interest using data from the already existing Herschel Space Telescope in Europe and the international Atacama Large Millimeter Array (Alma) facility in Chile.
What Alma in particular discloses is that the stain is also located in a region with a deficiency of carbon monoxide (CO) molecules. CO is destroyed, probably in the same heating process, which causes the dust to shine.
Unfortunately, it's hard to be more descriptive of a neutron star because of its dusty shell, but the group expects that to change over time.
"In about 50 to 100 years, the dust must be cleared to reveal this hot, energetic neutron star that everyone has been looking for for 30 years," Prof. Gomez told BBC News.
Astronomers are interested in supernovae, as they are an integral part of the evolution of the universe.
Explosions move the environment, sweeping nearby gas clouds to gravitationally fall on themselves and give birth to new stars. The dust ejected into the supernovae also sows cosmos. the heavier elements that go into the construction of the rocky
A document detailing recent discoveries was published in The Astrophysical Journal by its lead author, Dr. Phil Zigan of Cardiff.