Author Topic: Biggest supernova ever recorded  (Read 1868 times)

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BigDaddy99HD

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Biggest supernova ever recorded
« on: May 8, 2007, 08:33:27 AM »
The brightest supernova ever seen has been observed by Nasa's orbiting Chandra x-ray telescope.
The huge stellar explosion released around 100 times more energy than a typical supernova and was 100 million billion times brighter than the sun at its peak.

It is very unusual to observe the death of a super-massive star, so scientists will be keen to use the data from the orbiting telescope and others on the ground to piece together what happened.

"We understand rather little about the most massive stars in the universe," said Jane Drew an astrophysicist at Imperial College London "They are very rare so we get our hands on them not very often. It's a bit like always getting to the crime scene after the criminal has gone and getting the catastrophe that is left behind."
She said super-massive stars had a "live fast, die young" existence, in astronomical terms. They typically burn for just 1m years, while our sun has been in existence for more than 4.5 bn.

"We know that they live short and very furious lives," she said, "They almost switch on and then, bang, they are gone." The star that gave rise to the explosion was around 150 times more massive than our own sun.

Usually, supernovae occur when stars exhaust their fuel and collapse. But astonomers think the SN 2006gy supernova was different. Its massive core may have produced so much gamma radiation that some of the energy was converted into particle and anti-particle pairs.

This would have produced a massive gravitational pull, tugging the star in on itself and triggering runaway thermonuclear reactions that caused the massive explosion, which spewed detritus into space.

Similar acts of massive cosmic littering have been vital for the development of the universe as we know it and, crucially for life. Stars are factories that produce heavier elements, such as iron, so life could not exist without them.

"Of all exploding stars ever observed, this was the king," said Alex Filippenko, leader of ground-based observations at the Keck observatory in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and the Lick observatory at Mount Hamilton, California. "We were astonished to see how bright it got and how long it lasted."

"This was a truly monstrous explosion, 100 times more energetic than a typical supernova," said Nathan Smith of the University of California at Berkeley, who led a team. "That means the star that exploded might have been as massive as a star can get - about 150 times [the size of] our sun. We've never seen that before."

SN 2006gy will not trouble us too much because the galaxy it is in - called NGC 1260 - is 240m light years away. However, closer to home, in the Milky Way, is a star called Eta Carinae, a mere 7,500 light years or so away. This has been losing mass rapidly and looks like it might go supernova. It is hard to predict what the event would look like to us, but some suggest it would be so bright that it would be visible alongside the sun during the day.

"We don't know for sure if Eta Carinae will explode soon, but we had better keep a close eye on it just in case," said Mario Livio of the Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore. "Eta Carinae's explosion could be the best star show in the history of modern civilisation."
« Last Edit: May 8, 2007, 11:17:02 AM by BigDaddy_HD »

BigDaddy99HD

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Re: Biggest supernova ever recorded
« Reply #1 on: May 8, 2007, 11:16:26 AM »
US Astronomers record biggest supernova ever recorded PRINT FRIENDLY EMAIL STORY
PM - Tuesday, 8 May , 2007  18:55:00
Reporter: Kathryn Roberts
PETER CAVE: Astronomers have recorded a massive explosion in space 240 million light years away.

In terms of our universe though, that's almost local news.

It's the biggest and brightest supernova ever recorded and it may offer us some insight into what will happen when the largest star in our galaxy, Eta Carinae eventually dies.

Kathryn Roberts reports.

KATHRYN ROBERTS: In a galaxy 240 million light years away, a huge star exploded creating a large luminous supernova.

But it wasn't just any stellar explosion. It ripped apart a star about 150 times the size of our sun, making it the biggest and brightest supernova ever seen.

The explosion created a cosmic flash fifty billion times brighter than the sun and more powerful than any supernova on record.

Dr Nathan Smith from the University of California at Berkeley explains the significance of the discovery.

NATHAN SMITH: There are something like four hundred billion stars and the starts that are massive enough to do something like this, there are maybe a handful of them.

KATHRYN ROBERTS: A supernova occurs when a dying star explodes so violently it creates a burst of energy that can outshine an entire galaxy.

It may form when the star collapses under the force of its own gravity and forms a neutron star or a black hole.

But Dr Smith says this is a new type of supernova.

NATHAN SMITH: In this supernova, in 2006GY, we think we need to appeal to a different type, an entirely different type of explosion. Where instead of the core of the star collapsing, the core of the star is completely obliterated. It just blasts away all of tis material out into space and so all of these heavy elements, these radioactive elements, go spewing out to large distances where they can then heat the material and then glow and we can see the fabulous display that it puts on.

KATHRYN ROBERTS: Astronomers say the discovery forces them to rethink how the biggest stars die. And it also offers an insight into the early universe.

They believe a large number of the first stars were massive like this one and played a key role in the birth of the universe.

Professor Brian Schmidt from the Australian National University's Mount Stromlo Observatory says the first stars in the universe were formed a half a billion years after the big bang, and when they exploded they seeded the universe with the elements needed to create planets and later humans.

BRIAN SCHMIDT: Everything in the universe that we're made up from besides hydrogen and helium, are created in exploding stars called supernovae and these supernovae create the elements like carbon and oxygen which make up life, gold, and everything else in between.

So when we look around the universe we like to understand supernovae because they really are what power and energise the universe. They help form the first stars, the first galaxies, and really make the universe look like it does today.

KATHRYN ROBERTS: The astronomers involved in the NASA backed operation say a similar explosion could be ready to go off in our own galaxy.

Dr Dave Pooley from the University of California, at Berkeley explains that the Milky Way's largest star Eta Carinae may be on the brink of dying and poised to explode in a similar way.

DAVE POOLEY: Eta Carinae seems to be at about the same point that this star was when it exploded and so that's what makes us think that maybe Eta Carinae could go off.

KATHRYN ROBERTS: The ANU's Professor Brian Schmidt says the jury is still out on whether Eta Carinae would be big enough to explode in this way, but he says it's a possibility.

BRIAN SCHMIDT: Eta Carinae will explode probably some time in the next 10,000 years. It could be tomorrow, it could be in 10,000 years, we can't really tell.

But when it does explode, if it were to explode like this mechanism, it would be like almost having a new sun in the sky, it's not as bright as the sun but it would be a factor of probably a million times fainter than the sun but quite a bit brighter than the moon.

And so, it would be an interesting spectacle that would last many many months.

KATHRYN ROBERTS: It may not threaten Earth but the light would so bright that people could read by it at night.

Offline spacemeat

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Re: Biggest supernova ever recorded
« Reply #2 on: May 8, 2007, 08:01:18 PM »
This would have produced a massive gravitational pull, tugging the star in on itself and triggering runaway thermonuclear reactions that caused the massive explosion, which spewed detritus into space.

I wonder if the Einstein project will see any of this.  The two facilities involved in that are designed to detect gravitational waves.  I believe one is in Washington and the other in Louisiana.
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Offline smoothedge69

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Re: Biggest supernova ever recorded
« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2007, 05:53:01 PM »
Is it visible to the naked eye?

Offline spacemeat

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Re: Biggest supernova ever recorded
« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2007, 09:01:37 PM »
The LIGO facilities are.  Gravitational waves are not.  If the supernova was seen with an X-Ray telescope, it is not visible, but the supernova could see your skeleton.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2007, 09:03:20 PM by spacemeat »
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