Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2003 March 17
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SN 1006: History's Brightest Supernova
Credit: Frank Winkler (Middlebury College et al., AURA, NOAO, NSF

Explanation: Suddenly, in the year 1006 AD, a new star appeared in the sky. Over the course of just a few days, the rogue star became brighter than the planet Venus. The star, likely the talk of everyone who could see it, was recorded by people who lived in areas now known as China, Egypt, Iraq, Italy, Japan, and Switzerland. The celestial newcomer, now known to be a supernova, took months to fade. Modern observations have now been used to measure the speed of the still-expanding shock wave, allowing a better estimate of its distance and hence a better estimate of the true brightness of the supernova. It turns out SN 1006 likely achieved an apparent visual magnitude of -7.5, making it the brightest supernova on record. The shock wave was imaged in 1998 from CTIO (left panel), and then subtracted from a similar image taken in 1986 (right panel), highlighting the relative expansion.

Tomorrow's picture: Sun Burst

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
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