Science

The first burst of an exploding supernova has finally been captured

The first burst of an exploding supernova has finally been captured

When he looked at his images, he realised he'd captured a potential supernova - an enormous flash of light and energy bursting off of a distant star.

On Sept. 20, 2016, Victor Buso, an amateur astronomer in Rosario, Argentina, was checking out the new camera on his telescope by taking pictures of a nearby spiral galaxy when a star within it went off in a supernova explosion. He further added that Buso has provided some exceptional data and this finding also shows a ideal example of partnership work between professional astronomers and amateur astronomer.

"Buso's data are exceptional", Filippenko said. As it turned out, his series of photos provided professional astronomers with one of the first views ever of the initial burst of light from a supernova - in this case, in the distant galaxy NGC 613 - before and after the critical period known as supernova's shock breakout. The images are providing scientists with important clues into the nature of supernovae and the physical composition of stars fated to explode. Folatelli, who helped Bersten in the work stated, "I would hope the amateur astronomers are encouraged to do more of this". Buso stated that he spotted the tiny but bright point at the south of the galaxy NGC 613, however, it wasn't there in earlier photos.

The galaxy hosting the star is about 80 million light years away, which is also the time it took for the light cast by the explosion to reach Earth. After examining a set of short-exposure photos he'd just taken, he noticed something odd on the outskirts of the galaxy - a spot of light that was clearly brightening.

Astronomer Melina Bersten and her colleagues at the Instituto de Astrofísica de La Plata in Argentina soon learned of the serendipitous discovery and realized that Buso had caught a rare event, part of the first hour after light emerges from a massive exploding star. Buso just happened to be pointing his camera in exactly the right direction at the right time, and the researchers estimate his chances of winning this "cosmic lottery" could have been as low as one in 100 million.




Observations of stars in the first moments they begin exploding provide information that can not be directly obtained in any other way.

Bersten immediately contacted an global group of astronomers to help conduct additional frequent observations of SN 2016gkg over the next two months, revealing more about the type of star that exploded and the nature of the explosion.

"Professional stargazers have always been searching for such an event", said Filippenko, who followed up from the Lick Observatory near San Jose, California.

It may be noted that Filippenko's group included many undergraduate amateur astronomers and student and is supported by the Christopher R. Redlich Fund, Gary and Cynthia Bengier, the TABASGO Foundation.

Combining data with theoretical models, the team estimated that the initial mass of the star was about 20 times great that the mass of our Sun.


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