Ancient rock art could depict 5000-year-old supernova

A group of researchers have discovered a rock that they believe to be one of the oldest depictions of a supernova ever found.
By Joseph Scalise | Feb 23, 2019
Scientists working in India have found an ancient rock that they believe shows one of the earliest depictions of a supernova, a recentpaperpublished in the Indian Journal of the History of Sciencereports.

While the sun and the moon are commonly the only visible objects above Earth, occasionally a supernova -- a bright star that has just exploded -- pops up as well. The recently discovered rock has specific carvings in it that researchers believe to be a representation of one such event,Newsweekreports.

The artifact -- which the team uncovered in Burzahama -- shows two bright, sun-like objects in the sky overlooking a hunting scene. As it would be impossible to see two suns in the sky, scientists believed that one of the objects is an observed supernova.

Though it may seem odd to jump to that conclusion, there have been quite a few supernovae recorded throughout history. For instance, Chinese records make reference to a "guest star" that appeared in the sky during 185 A.D. and stuck around for eight months before fading away. Not only that, but the carving is made in a certain way that is different from more commonly seen celestial bodies.

"In view of its nearly circular shape and same horizontal position of the two objects, comets, halos, and terrestrial events also seem unlikely," the authors wrote in their paper, according to Tech Times. "We, therefore, consider the possibility that the observed object is a supernova."

Dating the rock was not easy. To shed light on its origin, the team looked for supernovae that would have been visible from the Burzahama area anywhere between 10,000 B.C. and 2000 B.C. That research gave them two options, and they concluded the carving represents the older of the two supernovae, called HB9.

However, despite that timeline, astronomers have no way of knowing when exactly HB9 exploded. They believe the event occurred between 5000 B.C. and 2000 B.C., but that is only an educated guess. Even so, researchers believe the lights in the carving do show such an event. The rest of the carving is also an astronomical record, which gives more credence to that idea.


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