Saturday, May 12, 2007

What a bang!

I'm fascinated by all things astronomical. I remember looking through a high powered telescope as a kid and seeing a very vivid picture of Jupiter. The universe out there has so many amazing mysteries to behold. Many times as humans we have been astonished and amazed at the beauty we see here on earth, but the magnitude of the universe just takes all of this to the nth degree.
I'm not reporting anything new because this news has already been reported by the media. but I wanted to "re-report" the Supernova that happened this week, because I think it is amazing.

1) Name of star: SN2006gy
2) Discovery: September 2006 by post doctoral researcher Robert Quimby, with the help of NASA's x-ray telescope "Chandra."
3) Mass of star: Described as "freakily massive" SN2006gy was 150 times the mass of the sun. This is thought to be as large as a star could possibly be. (Although the universe holds many mysteries and in my humble opinion there could be even larger surprises in space.)
4) Distance from earth: 240 000 000 light years. In Galaxy NG1260 (This is a loooong way. Our galaxy the milky way is about 100 000 light years across and that is BIG. But this is the distance of 2400 Milk Ways away).
5) Energy of explosion: 100 times bigger than a typical supernova it is by far and away the largest ever recorded.
6) Age of star: It had a short life, burning hard and fast, it was 1 million years old. Compare this to our own Sun, thought to be 4.5 billion years old.
7) Length of supernova: SN2006gy has been burning at supernova for more than 250 days, much longer than other stars. The peak of its burn lasted 70 days, where as the longest any other has lasted has been 2 weeks. Most supernovas burn out after one month.
8) Brightness of supernova: 100 000 000 000 (one hundred billion) times brighter than our Sun.

So this has been the most massive of star and supernovas ever known. It is thougt that the mass of SN2006gy was so huge that it could not bare its own weight, as a result it produced so much gamma radiation that some of the energy was converted into particle and anti particle pairs. This gravitational force pulled the star in upon itself which triggered a series of thermonuclear reactions and eventually its early supernova.

The star Eta Carinae which is 7500 light years away, placing it in the Milky Way, is losing its mass rapidly, which is the precursor to a supernova. This means that it could go supernova any time from 7499 years ago to 40 000 years from now. If it does it will probably be so bright that people in the southern hemisphere could read by night. Since Australia has never had white nights, if this lasted for a couple weeks, I am sure it would create quite the party atmosphere.

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