Out With A Bang

jan182016

The brightest supernova ever observed has exploded in a galaxy about 3.8 billion light years from Earth (a supernova occurs when a massive star reaches the end of its life and its core collapses causing an enormous explosion). Well, at least we think it’s a supernova…. The explosion was so powerful it generated the light of 570 billion suns, 200 times bigger than the average supernova, and was 20 times brighter than the entire Milky Way. In fact, it was so big that scientists are classifying it as a superluminous supernova (you know it’s impressive when the name has two “supers” in it!), but what makes this explosion even cooler is that the object at the center is only 10 miles in diameter. This leaves scientists wondering what is actually causing this off-the-charts blast? According to Todd Thompson, a professor of astronomy at Ohio State University, it could be caused by a rare type of star called a magnetar (a very dense spinning star that generates a magnetic field). However, this magnetar would be the most extreme one ever seen, and would have to spin 1,000 times per second to generate that kind of light. It is also possible that it is a new event that we haven’t observed before, or perhaps light created by a supermassive black hole. Hopefully, in the coming months the Hubble Space Telescope will help solve the mystery of this explosion, and until then I will be imagining the amazing sunglasses you would need to protect yourself from the light of 570 billion suns.

Want to learn more? Visit http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160114152321.htm

Jan 18, 2016

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