When massive stars die, they do not go gently into the night.
Instead, they expel most of their mass outward in a powerful explosion called a supernova, leaving behind a glowing cloud of gas and the collapsed remains of the former star’s core. In June 2015, a supernova appeared in the sky over the Southern Hemisphere, and astronomers believe it could mark the death throes of a very unusual star.
The supernova, named ASASSN-15lh, was 20 times brighter at its peak than the combined light of the Milky Way galaxy’s 100 billion stars, making it the brightest supernova ever observed. In fact, it’s twice as bright as the previous record-holder.
Powering A Superluminous Supernova
An exploding star releases a tremendous amount of energy, but it’s not enough to power anything as bright as ASASSN-15lh. Instead, a team of astronomers led by Subo Dong of China’s Kavli Institute say that the superluminous supernova could be getting its energy from an unusual object called a magnetar. They published their findings today in the journal Science.