Ancient Supernova Explosion Glimpsed Anew

By | December 5, 2008

Ancient Supernova Explosion Glimpsed Anew

A supernova explosion first seen from Earth 436 years ago has come back to life for astronomers in a time-travel-like astronomical twist.

By observing light from supernova SN 1572 that was slowed on its trip to Earth by dust particles, scientists can watch the outburst now as it would have looked originally.

When the explosion first appeared in the sky in 1572, Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe named it “Stella Nova” or “New Star” because it looked like an extremely bright star that hadn’t been there before. Astronomers today call it Tycho’s supernova. … Today when scientists aim their telescopes at the same spot, they see the gas left over from the supernova (shown in image above). Krause’s team used a new method to watch the supernova explosion as it would have looked in 1572.

They observed “light echoes” of the bang. These rays of light coming from the supernova are only just reaching Earth now because they took the long way home, bouncing off dust particles in the interstellar medium on their way. The team used this same method to study the origin of supernova remnant Cassiopeia A last year. … – wired

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