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Scientists have found the most powerful supernova ever seen

Scientists have found the most powerful supernova ever seen

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Astronomers have discovered the brightest supernova ever observed, which blasted out at least twice as much light as the next biggest star explosion on record.

First spotted on February 22, 2016 by the Pan-STARRS observatory in Hawaii, the gigantic detonation emitted the “largest radiated energy for any confirmed supernova,” according to a study published on Monday in Nature Astronomy. A team led by Matt Nicholl, an astronomer at the University of Birmingham, used multiple telescopes to examine the fallout of the explosion for two years, until it faded to a fraction of its peak brightness.

Following the first detection with Pan-STARRs, Nicholl and his colleagues calculated that the explosion originated in a small galaxy about 4.6 billion light years from Earth. The extreme brightness of the supernova, even at such an immense distance, tipped the team off to its record-breaking nature.

A ground breaking discovery

The discovery not only explodes records set by previous outbursts, it also provides a roadmap to detecting more of these superluminous supernovae created by massive stars. Scientists think that these enormous stars were more common in the early universe, so SN2016aps could shine an important light into this mysterious period in cosmic history. Fortunately, next-generation telescopes such as the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile and NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope may be able to scan for such explosions across several billion light years.

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