Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Star dies in monstrous explosion

from the bbc & new york times:

A massive star about 150 times the size of the Sun exploded in what could be a long-sought new type of supernova, Nasa scientists have said. Supernovae occur when huge, mature stars effectively run out of fuel and collapse in on themselves. But scientists believe this one was obliterated in an explosion which blasted all its material into space.

Astronomers have been following the star since last September, when it was discovered in a galaxy 240 million light years away in the constellation Perseus by Robert Quimby, a University of Texas graduate student, who was using a small robotic telescope at McDonald Observatory near Fort Davis, Tex., to troll for supernovas.

The star, SN2006gy, bears an eerie resemblance to one in our own galaxy, Eta Carinae (shown in the photo above), which has been burbling and bubbling in the last few centuries as if getting ready for its own outburst. The observations suggest that the troubled and enigmatic star, thought to weigh in about 120 solar masses, could blow up sooner than theorists had thought. Mario Livio a theorist at the Space Telescope Science Institute who was not involved in the research, said the death of that star could be “the most spectacular star show in history.”

...viewers in north america and most of europe will not see anything, sadly, if eta carinae goes supernova, as this star is located in a constellation only visible from southern latitudes. you'd think they might tell people that.

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