Rare Super-Luminous Supernova Was Powerful Enough To Vaporize Earth

A powerful and rare super-luminous supernova discovered this summer was the most powerful supernova event human eyes have ever seen with a brightness and energy that is difficult to comprehend. Called ASASSN-15lh, the explosion was billions of light years away, which is a very good thing. If this massive explosion was in Pluto’s neighborhood it would’ve vaporized not just Earth, but every single planet in our solar system, Scientific American reported.

Here are some facts to help understand just how powerful this supernova was: Its explosion was so forceful that for a short time, it shone 570 billion times brighter than our sun, and 20 times more brilliantly than every single star in the Milky Way combined; and, at the time of explosion, it released 10 times more energy than the Sun will in 10 billion years. At a safe distance of 3.8 billion light-years from our home, the powerful blast couldn’t have been seen with the naked eye, but is located near the constellations of Indus and Tucana, NBC News noted. And if it was close — for example, in our own galaxy — humankind would’ve been able to easily pick it out of the daytime sky. At 10,000 light-years away, it would’ve shone as brightly as the crescent Moon and at the distance of Sirius, which is the brightest star in the night sky, it would’ve been as bright as the Sun. https://twitter.com/sciam/status/687717661988491264

A supernova is basically the spectacular death of a star. When they run out of fuel, or get a lot of new material, they explode. But this one was far more powerful than any other witnessed before it. At 200 times more powerful than a run-of-the-mill supernova, it’s almost too bright to be theoretically possible. The powerful supernova was first discovered with twin telescopes in Cerro Tololo, Chile, but at first it only looked like a dot of light in a picture, nothing too special at all. Then, other telescopes caputured more observations. Astronomer, and lead author of a study on the phenomena, Subo Dong, realized what he’d found. He didn’t sleep all night. Now, he and other scientists are trying to figure out what caused this powerful explosion. One theory is that its remarkable power came from a magnetar, which is described as very dense, very magnetized, and swiftly spinning collapsed core of a huge star. This explanation “just barely works,” and if true, would mean that this wasn’t just the most powerful supernova ever seen, but the most energetic one, too.

Powerful supernova confounds scientists
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When a host star explodes, it emits gas into space and a mass of spinning neutrons the size of a city that produce an intense magnetic power and a magnetized wind as it slows down. The magnetar theory just barely works because it would have to be spinning impossibly fast and produce a magnetic field up to 100 trillion times more intense than Earth’s to create a supernova this powerful. The other option is that the supernova was the explosion of one of the universe’s biggest, heaviest stars, which could be hundreds of times bigger than our own Sun. Heavier stars create brighter supernovas. Or, it could be that the gas the supernova emitted created a shockwave, but there are no signs of this possibility. Dong said the mystery of this supernova’s powerful explosion may take centuries to solve, but until then, the team that found it will look for more. The All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN) telescope scans the night sky every couple nights and the team wants to add another small telescope to double its coverage. “We have spent at most about $1 million for this unprecedented capability,” said the project’s co-principle investigator, Kris Stanek.”This is an example of ‘if you build it, they will come.’ We have built a unique discovery machine, for relatively little money. Discoveries followed, and we will keep making them.”

[Photo By Jurik Peter / Shutterstock]