Starts With A Bang

The Milky Way’s most recent supernova was hidden… until now! (Synopsis)

Image credit: NASA/CXC/CfA/S. Chakraborti et al., of supernova remnant G1.9+0.3.

“When a star goes supernova, the explosion emits enough light to overshadow an entire solar system, even a galaxy. Such explosions can set off the creation of new stars. In its own way, it was not unlike being born.” -Todd Nelson

In 1604, Kepler’s supernova went off, the last Milky Way supernova visible to naked-eye skywatchers here on Earth. Yet since the development of radio and X-ray astronomy, other, more recent supernova remnants in our galaxy have been found. They’ve only been invisible to the naked eye because of the galactic gas and dust that blocks their visible light. In 1984/5, the VLA discovered the most recent known remnant near the galactic center, and follow-up observations showed a rapid expansion.

Images credit: X-ray (NASA/CXC/NCSU/S.Reynolds et al.); Radio (NSF/NRAO/VLA/Cambridge/D.Green et al.); Infrared (2MASS/UMass/IPAC-Caltech/NASA/NSF/CfA/E.Bressert), of the supernova remnant in 1985 (L) and 2007/8 (R).

The most recent data not only dates this remnant to be only 110 years old, but it teaches us that it’s a Type Ia supernova that formed from the merger of two white dwarfs. The standard model — of one white dwarf accruing matter from a binary companion — may not only be a minority of Type Ia events, perhaps it doesn’t occur at all.

Image credit: NASA/CXC/NCSU/K.Borkowski et al., of supernova remnant G1.9+0.3 as imaged by Chandra in 2013.

Go get the full story of this new observation of G1.9+0.3 over on Forbes!