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Brightest supernova ever seen - Ten’s The Project (15/1/16)


Brightest supernova ever seen - Ten’s The Project (15/1/16)

Alan Duffy

The Project invited me on the show to chat about an astounding discovery... A new tiny faint point of light appeared in the sky, 10000 times faint than could be seen by the naked eye, but when we realised it was 3.8 BILLION lightyears away it was clear that it must be astoundingly bright to even reach this faint level. This was the brightest supernovae ever recorded - ASAS-SN-15lh

Fifty times more luminous than the entire Milky Way, to compare it with our Sun is similar to comparing a firefly to the Hiroshima nuclear explosion. If this supernova was our Sun it would be 100,000,000,000 times brighter than holding a nuclear bomb to your eyeball. 

The explosion has been travelling since before life arose on Earth, indeed, the reason life is on Earth at all is because of exploding stars before our solar system formed seeding us with nuclear fallouts that created heavy elements like the iron in your blood, calcium in your bones or the gold in wedding rings.

The big question of how to form this scale of explosion remains but a candidate might be a magnetar, a dead core of a massive star - more mass than the Sun crushed into the size of a city and spinning faster than a kitchen blender with the most powerful magnetic field known (able to wipe credit cards on Earth from beyond the Moon). 

The supernova was found by the All Sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae (ASAS-SN) based in Ohio, a network of 14cm telescopes around the world to scan sky every 2-3 nights. This is a huge result, as super luminous SN are expected to form in small, dim dwarf galaxies full of young stars but ASAS-SN-15lh is in a large, bright galaxy with little star formation.