A Supernova is the result of a massive star more than 10 times as massive as our sun reaching the end of it’s multi million year life and as it is so massive gravity makes the sun collapse in on itself. The implosion leads to an explosion so incredibly and unimaginably powerful that only the universe creating Big Bang is larger!
These enormous stars typically have a life of tens of millions of years, as opposed to our longer living smaller sedate sun that is middle aged at roughly five billion years old!
The super giant stars burn brightly living their lives in the fast lane. They consume massive amounts of hydrogen and helium gas at their cores. Other elements are formed near the core as the star tries to maintain nuclear fusion. Finally when iron is created at the core, fusion can no longer take place and gravity wins pulling the star’s incredible mass in on itself. The resulting titanic explosion creates most of the elements we know which are thrown deep into space forming vast clouds that will one day form other stars, planets and even life. Our sun, solar system of planets and us owe our existence to a long past supernova that created the elements, atoms etc., which created life billions of years ago.
Below are two articles about two stars that have gone supernova.
The nearest supernova for decades was discovered at an observatory about 3 miles (5 kms)from where we live!
Jean and I pass by this observatory regularly.
The supernova may be visible to stargazers through binoculars – and could grow brighter in coming weeks
An exploding star has been spotted in the night sky – the closest supernova to Earth that has been seen in decades.
The dramatic event happened 12 million light years away in Messier 82 – known as the cigar galaxy for its shape.
It was discovered by undergraduates during a telescope class at the University of London Observatory.
“One minute we’re eating pizza then five minutes later we’ve helped to discover a supernova. I couldn’t believe it,” said student Tom Wright.
“It reminds me why I got interested in astronomy in the first place.”
Before and after: The supernova appears like a ‘new star’ in the lower image
The students from University College London were taking part in a 10-minute lesson with astronomer Dr Steve Fossey when they noticed what appeared to be a “new star”.
“We pointed the telescope at Messier 82 – it’s quite a bright galaxy, quite photogenic. But as soon as it came up on screen, it didn’t look right to me,” Dr Fossey told BBC News.
“We fired up another telescope, we got another frame – and that was when we knew it was a supernova.”
The “fluke” discovery led to a global scramble to acquire confirming images and spectra from the dazzling object.
It now been confirmed by the International Astronomical Union as a supernova – a violent blast of energy and light that is hurled out as a star dies.
It has taken 12 million years for the light to reach us. But though this may seem like a long way away, scientists say this is the closest supernova to be spotted since the late 1980s.
Scientists says it could grow even brighter over the coming weeks, before fading away.
If this happens, astronomers in the northern hemisphere may be able to spot it with binoculars, by looking between the Great Bear and the Little Bear.
Supernova ‘Mingus’ could shed light on dark energy
By Jason PalmerScience and technology reporter, BBC News, Long Beach, California
Supernovas are traditionally named after composers
Astronomers have spotted the most distant supernova ever seen.
Nicknamed “Mingus”, it was described at the 221st American Astronomical Society meeting in the US.
These lightshows of dying stars have been seen since ancient times, but modern astronomers use details of their light to probe the Universe’s secrets.
Ten billion light-years distant, Mingus will help shed light on so-called dark energy, the force that appears to be speeding up cosmic expansion.
Formally called SN SCP-0401, the supernova was something of a chance find in a survey carried out in part by the Supernova Cosmology Project (SCP) using the Hubble Space Telescope, first undertaken in 2004.
But the data were simply not good enough to pin down what was seen. As David Rubin of the University of California, Berkeley, lead author on the study, told the AAS meeting, “for a sense of brightness, this supernova is about as bright as a firefly viewed from 3,000 miles away”.
Further news had to wait until astronauts installed the Wide Field Camera 3 on the Hubble telescope in 2009 and again trained it on the candidate, which had – in an SCP tradition of naming supernovae after composers – already been named after jazz musician Charles Mingus.
“Unfortunately, it took the development of Wide Field Camera 3 to bring home what the  measurements meant,” Mr Rubin told BBC News.
“The sensitivity is a few times better, which makes a huge difference, and we have a much cleaner image.”
The Wide Field Camera 3 enabled scientists to focus in on Mingus
The team went on to confirm that the supernova was in fact a Type 1a – a particular class of exploded star whose light occurs in such a regular way that it is known as a “standard candle”.
‘Bit of history’
What interests astronomers trying to find ever more distant Type 1a supernovae – distant both in space and in time – is the chance to compare them to better-known, more local supernovae.
“We were able to watch these changes in brightness and spectral features for an event that lasted just a few weeks almost 10 billion years ago,” said Saul Perlmutter, who leads the Supernova Cosmology Project.
Prof Perlmutter shared the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics for work with Type 1a supernovae that proved our Universe is speeding up in its expansion.
Elucidating the mysterious force, “dark energy”, which has been invoked as the cause of the expansion, will require careful study of supernovae all the way back to the epoch of the earliest stars.
“We’re seeing two-thirds of the way back to the beginning of the Universe, and we’re getting a little bit of history where the physics of what makes a supernova explode have to all work out the same way there as they do near here,” he told the meeting.
Supernova SN SCP-0401 fits into a wider story, Prof Frieman says
The meeting also heard from Joshua Frieman, director of the Dark Energy Survey – a five-year mission using the most powerful camera ever trained on the skies to get to the bottom of the dark matter mystery.
The phone-booth-sized Dark Energy Camera took it’s first cosmic photos in Sept 2012 and will begin its formal mission in September this year, looking not only at supernovae but also at three other dark-energy signatures in the cosmos.
Prof Frieman told BBC News that the distant supernova result fits neatly into a story that he hoped the Dark Energy Survey would explore in great detail.
“What they’re doing is using the Hubble telescope to go really deep – we’re going to use the Dark Energy Survey to go very broad,” he explained to BBC News.
“They’re finding tens of supernovae at these high [distances], and we’re going to find thousands of supernovae not quite as deep. You really need both of those together to really make progress in trying to figure out why the Universe is speeding up.”