Baby pictures of a newborn supernova have captured this stellar explosion after the first half-dozen hours of its life, shedding light on how these giant explosions happen, a new study finds.
This newly discovered cosmic baby is the type of supernova that occurs when a giant star runs out of fuel and explodes. Supernovas are so bright that they can briefly outshine all of the other stars in their home galaxy.
Astronomers have previously seen glimpses of supernovas within the first minutes after they explode. However, until now, researchers had not captured light from a newborn supernova across the so many wavelengths — including radio waves, visible light and X-rays. The new images add to evidence that suggests that these dying stars may signal their upcoming demise by spewing a disk of material in the months before their deaths, according to a paper describing the finding. [Know Your Novas: Star Explosions Explained (Infographic)]
Much remains unknown about how and why dying stars can detonate with such violence. Studying the final years of a star that is destined to die as a supernova could reveal key details about the way in which these explosions happen, but stars in these brief, final stages are rare — statistically, it is very likely that none of the 100 billion to 400 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy are within one year of dying as a supernova, according to the new paper.