Tuesday, May 8th, 2007
In a cascade of superlatives that belies the traditional cerebral reserve of their profession, astronomers reported Monday that they had seen the brightest and most powerful stellar explosion ever recorded.
The cataclysm — a monster more than a hundred times as energetic as the typical supernova in which the more massive stars end their lives — might be an example of a completely new type of explosion, astronomers said. Such a blast — proposed but never seen — would explain how the earliest and most massive stars in the universe ended their lives and strewed new elements across space to fertilize future stars and planets.
Nathan Smith says:
“This was a truly monstrous explosion, a hundred times more energetic than a typical supernova,” said Nathan Smith of the University of California at Berkeley, who led a team of astronomers from California and the University of Texas in Austin. “That means the star that exploded might have been as massive as a star can get, about 150 times that of our sun. We’ve never seen that before.”