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Astronomers spot supernova just hours after explosion

Artist illustration of the supernova SN 2013fs, located in a nearby galaxy. Credit: Ofer Yaron

Scientists spotted a supernova just a few hours after the star’s explosion.

Tech Times reports that the discovery marks the first time that a supernova has been observed in its earliest moments of disintegration.

The supernova, called SN 2013fs, is located in the galaxy NGC 7610, which lies almost 160 million light-years from Earth.

The stellar explosion was caught just three hours after its initiation, which allowed scientists to observe the debris and piece together what happened just before the explosion.

The supernova was first seen in October 2013 by observers at the Palomar Observatory.  The astronomers there used ultraviolet and X-ray wavelengths to observe the star, which appeared to be about ten times the size of the sun.

SN 2013fs seems to have had a disk of matter surrounding it.  The disk formed within the star’s last year, likely as the dying star expelled much of its mass as gas before its final disintegration.

“It’s as if the star ‘knows’ its life is ending soon, and is puffing material at an enhanced rate during the final breaths,” lead researcher Ofer Yaron of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel said in a statement.

SN 2013fs is a Type II supernova which started its life as a red supergiant before exploding at a speed of 224,000 miles per hour.

The rare look at a freshly exploded supernova “is crucial for shedding light on our understanding of both the latest stages of evolution of massive stars and of the explosion mechanisms themselves,” Yaron said.

The study was published in the journal Nature Physics.

Kathy Fey

Kathy Fey

Staff Writer
Kathy Fey is a freelance writer with a creative writing degree from Mount Holyoke College. She is an active blogger and erstwhile facilitator of science and engineering programs for children.
About Kathy Fey (650 Articles)
Kathy Fey is a freelance writer with a creative writing degree from Mount Holyoke College. She is an active blogger and erstwhile facilitator of science and engineering programs for children.