Mystery Surrounding Chinese Supernova Solved by NASA

7 February, 2012 at 09:15 | Posted in Science | Leave a comment

By Cassie Ryan & Stephanie Lam
Epoch Times Staff

Join The Epoch Times in celebrating the Chinese New Year with this article on a modern analysis of the Chinese ancients’ observation of a supernova 2,000 years ago!

An ancient celestial event observed by Chinese astronomers almost two millennia ago has been explained using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer WISE.

Scientists in the 1960s identified the phenomenon as the first supernova recorded in history, but its spherical remains are much bigger than expected.

The remnants of the explosion are known as RCW 86, and are located about 8,000 light-years away. The supernova occurred in a hollowed-out cavity, emitting matter much further and faster than normal.

“This supernova remnant got really big, really fast,” said lead researcher Brian J. Williams at North Carolina State University in a press release.

“It’s two to three times bigger than we would expect for a supernova that was witnessed exploding nearly 2,000 years ago. Now, we’ve been able to finally pinpoint the cause.”

The explosion was described as a “guest star” by the Chinese in 185 A.D. According to the Book of the Later Han, written in 445 A.D., the supernova was spotted in October (in the Chinese calendar) of that year, and remained until June of the following year.

The guest star is said to have had five colors, and fortune tellers saw it as an omen of war. Later, it was thought to be associated with a war that broke out in 189 A.D., causing thousands of deaths.

The new study, published online in the Astrophysical Journal, shows that it is a Type Ia supernova generated by the death of a white dwarf star.

Read more: Mystery Surrounding Chinese Supernova Solved by NASA | Space & Astronomy | Science | Epoch Times


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