Astronomers have just discovered the most powerful Supernova ever seen

Astronomers discovered the brightest stellar explosion ever recorded, a supernova that exceeds by far the light of all of our Milky Way galaxy.

An artist’s impression of the record-breakingly powerful, superluminous supernova ASASSN- 15lh as it would appear from an exoplanet located about 10,000 light years away in the host galaxy of the supernova. (Wayne Rosing)
Source Scientific American

Craig Wheeler, the Samuel T. and Fern Yanagisawa Regents Professor in Astronomy and Distinguished Teaching Professor, called the discovery “a very interesting event.”

An international team of astronomers at Ohio State University, the Carnegie Institution for Science and the Kavli Foundation just made public an exceptional finding: the biggest and brightest observed supernova in history, 200 times more powerful than an ordinary ‘supernova’. A star located in a galaxy billions of light years from our Sun exploded which such an incredible force that it briefly shone about 600 billion times brighter than the brightness of our sun, and about 20 times brighter than all of the stars that make up the milky Way galaxy. Interestingly, this cosmic explosion released 10 times more energy into the universe than our sun will radiate in 10 billion years. Staggering facts that have just become history.

The historical supernova was dubbed ASASSN-15lh, after the All Sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae (ASAS-SN) telescopic survey that discovered it. This incredible cosmic outburst belongs to a class of rare “superluminous supernovae,” which have the power to shine hundreds of times more brighter than ordinary stellar explosions.

“ASASSN-15lh is the most powerful supernova discovered in human history,” said lead author Subo Dong, an astronomer at the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Peking University. “It provides a great puzzle—it challenges all our previous theories of explosion mechanisms and power sources of superluminous supernovae.”

Astronomers have just discovered the most powerful Supernova ever seen

The Before and After of the Explosion

One of the main theories explaining the incredible amounts of energy coming from this supernova is it that it ‘could’ a giant fireball composed of gas which is have spawned an extremely rare type of star releasing energy equivalent to several hundreds of billions of suns. At the heart of the fiery and expansive sphere, there is a ‘sleeping’ high-density core. Astronomers think that the central object of the supernova could be a magnetar, a stellar body formed by a rare variety of neutron star, incredibly dense, with a strong magnetic field and which spins at high speed while emitting powerful pulses of X-rays and Gamma rays.

“Very few events in nature are capable of providing the enormous brightness of this event and all are exotic,” Stanford Woosley, an expert in supernovas at the University of California Santa Cruz but who did not take part in the study, said.

“If it is a supernova, we may be witnessing the birth of a “millisecond magnetar”,a neutron star with a mass 1 1/2 times that of the sun rotating 1,000 times a second,” he said. “Even here the maximum rotational energy before the neutron star would either fly apart or collapse to a back hole is just a few times what was seen in light and the efficiency for turning rotational energy into the light would need to be quite high.”

Now the team of researchers plans to use the Hubble Space telescope in order to confirm the source of the supernova’s energy as well as determine the exact location of ASASSN-15lh.




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