You know what they say that nothing lives forever. And it’s entirely true, even when we’re speaking about stars, those huge balls of fire that are providing light and energy for their planets. After consuming all its hydrogen that fuses into helium, a star becomes a supernova, a cataclysmic explosion that can be as bright as an entire galaxy.
Astronomers had long tried to figure out what caused SN 2006gy, which is the brightest supernova ever discovered. Now, some Swedish and Japanese scientists are claiming that they found the answer: a huge collision between a white dwarf and a red giant star.
238 million light-years away
If by some reason you have any plans of admiring the supernova up-close, you have a tremendous distance to travel: 238 million light-years. The distance also assures us that the explosion will never reach our planet, so we’re as safe as we can be. To make yourself an idea of how big the SN 2006gy supernova is, just take a look at what Nathan Smith from UC Berkeley has to say:
This was a truly monstrous explosion, a hundred times more energetic than a typical supernova.
The new findings are revealing that a double star was behind SN 2006gy. The two celestial objects were in orbit with each other – a white dwarf about the same size as Earth, and a red giant. The bigger star started to enlarge its volume as a result of its later evolution stages, and thus engulfing the smaller star.
A truly unique scenario
The conditions that led to the SN 2006gy supernova had baffled the minds of scientists.
Anders Jerkstrand from the Department of Astronomy from the Stockholm University, stated:
That a Type Ia supernova appears to be behind SN 2006gy turns upside down what most researchers have believed,
That a white dwarf can be in close orbit with a massive hydrogen-rich star, and quickly explode upon falling to the centre, gives important new information for the theory of double star evolution and the conditions necessary for a white dwarf to explode.
The new research team includes prestigious scientists, including some from Stockholm University in Sweden and also at Kyoto University, University of Tokyo, and Hiroshima University.