Tuesday, May 08, 2007

She's a star...

One of the things that can keep me hopping around Wikipedia for hours is anything on the subject of astronomy, especially anything to do with stars, not least because of the large part that I believe our sun plays in the current climate change debate. But by far the most fascinating aspect is the sheer, mind-bending power of the things.

A couple of weeks ago, for instance, I looked up Algol (the "demon-star"), an eclipsing binary that I used to view through a telescope when younger, and then spent literally all night reading about the various life-cycles and states of known stars.

Thus, I find this report, about the most colossal supernova ever observed, completely absorbing.
A massive star around 150 times the size of the Sun has exploded in what is the brightest supernova ever seen, Nasa scientists have said.

Supernovae occur when huge, mature stars effectively run out of fuel and collapse in on themselves.

But scientists believe this one was obliterated in an explosion which blasted all its material into space.
...

The supernova star, called SN 2006gy, was originally discovered in September last year.

The explosion peaked for about 70 days, during which it is thought to have shone about five times more brightly than any supernova seen in the past.

There is a star in the Milky Way, Eta Carinae, could be due for a similar event on the basis of its sheer size (about 150 times as big as our own sun).
Dave Pooley, at the University of California at Berkeley, said if Eta Carinae were to explode "it would be so bright that you would see it during the day, and you could even read a book by its light at night."

And that would be at a distance of 7,500 light-years from Earth. That kind of power is essentially inconceivable; utterly impossible for we puny humans to appreciate in any meaningful way...

5 comments:

David B. Wildgoose said...

And is also why we desperately need to get off the fragile cradle of our birth and start colonising our Solar System. Once we have proved we can manufacture and maintain self-reliant habitats we can then start the long travel to distant systems and hopefully avoid our entire species being wiped out if a nearby nova sterilises our planet.

Devil's Kitchen said...

Which is why I'm rather disappointed to note that the Liftport Group have knocked back their probable date of completion of the first space elevator from 2018 to 2031...

DK

Bag said...

The sheer scale of the cosmos is inconceivable to most people. I remember the shock I got when we did the earth as a peppercorn model. I couldn't get my mind around howmuch energy is wasted just from our sun.

james higham said...

You OK, DK?

Surreptitious Evil said...

Some visual and x-ray pictures of SN2006GY.

More about Eta Carinae here and here.

Now back to being rude ...

S-E