Astronomers have seen what could be the most powerful supernova ever detected. At its peak, the event was 200 times more powerful than a typical supernova, making it shine with 570 billion times the brightness of our Sun.
The exploding star was first observed back in June last year but is still radiating vast amounts of energy.
Researchers think the explosion and ongoing activity have been boosted by a very dense, highly magnetised, remnant object called a magnetar.
This object, created as the supernova got going, is probably no bigger than a major city, such as London, and is likely spinning at a fantastic rate – perhaps a thousand times a second.
Details of the event are reported in the latest edition of the journal Science.
The super-luminous supernova, as it is termed, was spotted some 3.8 billion light-years from Earth by the All Sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae (ASAS-SN).
“It would have been very hot, however: about 100,000 degrees at the surface. Basically, it would have got rid of all of its hydrogen and helium, leaving just the material that had been burnt into carbon and oxygen.”
There are signs that the supernova may be about to fade, and the team have time on the Hubble space telescope in the coming weeks to try to further understand the mechanisms driving the supernova.
Image copyright BEIJING PLANETARIUMImage caption Artist’s impression:
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