NASA observes largest supernova on record

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

According to observations by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and ground-based optical telescopes, the supernova SN 2006gy is the brightest and most energetic stellar explosion ever recorded.
Image: pages/chandra/multimedia/photos07-052.html NASA/CXC/SAO.

SN 2006gy was the brightest and largest supernova ever discovered, scientists announced. The star was in the NGC 1260 galaxy, in the same direction as the constellation Perseus and may be a type of supernova previously predicted by theory but not observed. The conclusion was reached after extended observations of the supernova by both optical telescopes and X-ray telescopy. Currently, there are two possible explanations for the supernova's brightness, but both require the star in question to have been at least a hundred times as massive as the sun. Although the supernova is brighter than SN 1987A, which was bright enough to be seen by the naked eye, SN 2006gy is too far away to be seen by the naked eye.

Similar stars close by

The star Eta Carinae, which is in our galaxy, is similar in size to the star which became SN 2006gy. It is possible that Eta Carinae could supernova in a similar fashion. Dave Pooley, one of the discoverers of SN 2006gy said that if Eta Carinae exploded in a similar fashion, it would be bright enough that one could read by its light. However, Pooley estimates the likelihood of the star exploding soon is small and estimates that, even if it did explode, the risk to life on earth would be minimal.


  Learn more about SN 2006gy and Supernova on Wikipedia.