A weird stellar explosion may have caused the brightest supernova yet seen

Friday, April 17, 2020 - 07:11 in Astronomy & Space

The brightest supernova ever seen may be the first known example of a rare type of stellar explosion. The supernova, spotted in 2016 in a galaxy about 4.6 billion light-years away, radiated about 5 sexdecillion (5 followed by 51 zeros) ergs of energy. That’s about twice the amount of radiation emitted by the previous record-holder, and hundreds of times more energetic than normal supernovas. At its brightest, this supernova was as bright as all the stars in the Milky Way put together. Such a bright blast could have been a pulsational pair-instability supernova — thought to occur when an extremely massive supernova collides with a shell of material cast off by the star before it exploded, researchers report online April 13 in Nature Astronomy. “There’s no single, well-established case of such a supernova,” says Philipp Podsiadlowski, an astrophysicist at the University of Oxford not involved in the work. “This could be one.” Computer simulations of the event may help confirm the nature of the...

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