The world’s happiest photographer may have proven astrophysicists right

A colour image taken by scientists from UC Santa Cruz reveals the nascent supernova (in brackets in red) that an amateur astronomer discovered during the testing of a camera.


On a September night in Argentina, amateur astronomer Victor Buso took his camera outside, mounted on a 16-inch telescope and trained in a spiral galaxy about 80 million light-years from Earth. Buso was just trying to test his new camera. He had not expected to win the cosmic lottery — or to prove that the scientists are right about a long-held theory of how supernovas occur.

During the shooting of the NGC 613 galaxy in the course of about an hour, Buso accidentally caught multiple images of a star who, by the first visible phase of a supernova — the explosive (and visible light) the death of a supermassive star. In one photo, in the space under the spiral galaxy, the milky way looked seemingly empty. In the following, a bright explosion of light had appeared.

Such pictures of the emerging supernova’s are never recorded for, and with good reason; according to astronomers at the Instituto de Astrofísica de La Plata in Argentina, the chance of catching a random star going supernova, approximately 1 in 10 million at best. [The Space Best Photos Ever]

Buso quickly shared his photographic findings with the astronomers, and the next morning, telescopes all over the world took aim at the dying star.

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“Professional astronomers have long been searching for such an event,” Alex filippenko, an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley, said in a statement. “Observations of stars in the first moments that they begin exploding the provision of information that cannot be directly obtained in any other way.” Filippenko worked on a follow-up study of the star published Wednesday (Feb. 21) in the journal Nature.

Supernova’s occur when the universe’s most massive stars (about eight to 15 times the mass of our sun) to acquire or lose too much, so the star is the core of collapsing. According to Live Science’s sister site a supernova somewhere in the universe once every second or so. However, it is difficult for the researchers to detect the stellar explosions until they are well underway.

Scientists determined that the supernova Buso was a witness of a Type IIb supernova, meaning that the star’s core probably imploded after losing too much hydrogen and helium fuel to another nearby star. Researchers believe that the star may have started on almost 20 times the mass of our sun, but could be shrunk to only five solar masses by the time that the supernova began, with thanks to the companion star hydrogen aspiration.

Once a star’s core collapses, a powerful wave of the pressure of the explosion to the outside in a violent storm of energy visible in the electromagnetic spectrum. The resulting explosion of energy can last for months, or even years.

Buso the photos capture of the first known images of a supernova “shock breakout,” that the shock wave of the star explodes core is gases on the star and the surface, causing them to warm and brighten up considerably. According to the researchers, these pictures give the first observational evidence of a supernova behavior is theoretically up until now. First investigation of the supernova seems to confirm what scientists have a theory as a breakout would occur.

Further study of the stars is brilliant death can give valuable clues to the physical structure of supermassive stars just for their flashy demise.

Originally published on Live Science.

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