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Something that powers an explosion brighter than the Milky Way

Something that powers an explosion brighter than the Milky Way

An international team of professional and amateur astronomers spotted the possible supernova, now called ASASSN-15lh, when it first flared to life in June 2015.

Right now, astronomers are viewing this ball of hot gas billions of light years away that is radiating the energy of hundreds of billions of suns. At its heart is an object a little larger than 10 miles across but the astronomers are not entirely sure what it is.

If, as they suspect, the gas ball is the result of a supernova, then it's the most powerful supernova ever seen.

In this week's issue of the journal Science, they report that the object at the center could be a very rare type of star called a magnetar, but one so powerful that it pushes the energy limits allowed by physics.

The team's co-principal investigator, Krzysztof Stanek of The Ohio State University, states, If it really is a magnetar, it's as if nature took everything we know about magnetars and turned it up to 11.

The All Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN, pronounced assassin collaboration spotted the gas ball surrounding the object. Led by Ohio State, the project uses a cadre of small telescopes around the world to detect bright objects in our local universe.

It is 200 times more powerful than the average supernova, 570 billion times brighter than our sun, and 20 times brighter than all the stars in our Milky Way Galaxy combined.

Subo Dong, lead author of the Science paper and a Youth Qianren Research Professor of astronomy at the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Peking University, stated that the discovery may lead to new thinking and new observations of the whole class of superluminous supernova.

Todd Thompson, professor of astronomy at Ohio State, offered one possible explanation. The supernova could have spawned an extremely rare type of star called a millisecond magnetar, a rapidly spinning and very dense star with a very strong magnetic field.

The Hubble Space Telescope will help settle the question later this year, in part because it will allow astronomers to see the host galaxy surrounding the object.

Content Credit: http://www.osu.edu/

Something that powers an explosion brighter than the Milky Way