“And no one showed us to the land
And no one knows the where’s or why’s
But something stirs and something tries
And starts to climb towards the light” –Pink Floyd, Echoes
It’s pretty difficult to imagine, but a little over 300 years ago, a supernova — a dying, ultramassive star — exploded, giving rise to such a luminous explosion that it might have shone as bright as our entire galaxy.
And nobody on Earth saw it.
Located in the plane of our Milky Way galaxy, the light was obscured, but thanks to a suite of great, space-based observatories (Hubble, Spitzer, and Chandra), we’ve been able to piece together exactly what occurred. Not only that, but observations of a “light-echo,” or reflected light off of the nearby gas, has allowed us to see the light from this explosion centuries later, and learn exactly how it happened.