Brightest Supernova Ever

A hundred times more energetic than a typical supernova, the death of an extremely massive star in the galaxy NGC 1260, some 240 million light years away from earth, was recently observed by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory as well as several ground-based optical telescopes.

The discovery of the new supernova known as SN 2006gy is the first evidence that the death of such massive stars is fundamentally different from theoretical predictions. This discovery indicates that violent explosions of extremely massive stars were relatively common in the early universe, and that a similar explosion may be ready to go off in our own galaxy. Scientists believe that the star which exploded in the NGC 1260 galaxy was about 150 times more massive than our own sun, making it very close to the theoretical limit of mass for stars in our universe.
Astronomers think many of the first generation of stars were this massive, and this new supernova may thus provide a rare glimpse of how the first stars died. It is unprecedented, however, to find such a massive star and witness its death. Supernovas usually occur when massive stars exhaust their fuel and collapse under their own gravity. In the case of SN 2006gy, astronomers think that a very different effect may have triggered the explosion. Under some conditions, the core of a massive star produces so much gamma ray radiation that some of the energy from the radiation converts into particle and anti-particle pairs. The resulting drop in energy causes the star to collapse under its own huge gravity.

Recently TFOT covered several important astronomical findings including the discovery of the first earth-like planet in habitable zone, new images NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes showing the creation of new stars in the Orion nebula, and a massive solar flare on a nearby star discovered by scientists using the SWIFT satellite.
More information on SN 2006gy from NASA webpage.

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