A supernova at least twice as bright and energetic, and likely much more massive than any yet recorded was recognized by a global group of astronomers, guided by the College of Birmingham.
The crew, which included experts from Harvard, Northwestern University, and Ohio University, believe the supernova, dubbed SN2016aps, could be an instance of an extremely uncommon ‘pulsational pair-instability’ supernova, possibly fashioned from two large stars that merged before the explosion. Their findings are revealed in Nature Astronomy.
Such an event to date only exists in theory and has by no means been confirmed through astronomical observations.
Dr. Matt Nicholl, of the School of Physics and Astronomy and the Institute of Gravitational Wave Astronomy at the University of Birmingham, is the lead writer of the research. He explains: “We are able to measure supernovae using two scales—the overall energy of the explosion, and the amount of that power that is emitted as observable light, or radiation.
To become this bright, the explosion must have been far more energetic than usual. By analyzing the light spectrum, the crew had been capable of presenting that the explosion was powered by a collision between the supernova and a massive shell of gas shed by the star in the years before it exploded.
The crew also observed the explosion for two years until it faded to 1% of its peak brightness.