A strange light suddenly appeared in the sky some 1,800 years ago. Chinese astronomers recorded the event, calling it a “guest star.” It turns out the light, visible for eight months, was an exploded star, a
Now in the 21st century, scientists at the National Science Foundation’s NOIRLab — which runs big telescopes across the U.S. and elsewhere — turned a giant telescope to the cosmic scene, capturing a rare, detailed view of the historic blast. This fragmented ring-like cloud of
“Draped around the outer edges of this star-filled image are wispy tendrils that appear to be flying away from a central point, like the tattered remains of a burst balloon,”
Credit: CTIO / NOIRLab / DOE / NSF / AURA T.A. Rector (University Of Alaska Anchorage/NSF’s NOIRLab) / J. Miller (Gemini Observatory / NSF’s NOIRLab) / M. Zamani And D. De Martin (NSF’s NOIRLab)
To capture this burst cosmic balloon, astronomers took images with the high-resolution Dark Energy Camera, which is mounted to the Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in the dark, dry Chilean mountains.
The supernova blast expanded rapidly in space, some 8,000 light-years away. Astronomers suspect that a
“These supernovae are the brightest of all and no doubt SN 185 [this specific supernova’s name] would have awed observers while it shone brightly in the night sky,” NOIRLab explains.
Centuries later, with a powerful telescope, we can all glimpse the aftermath, as a ring of star remains still persist around the explosion.
One day, thankfully billions of years into the future, our