NC State astronomer, team solve supernova mystery

Posted October 24, 2011
Updated October 25, 2011

— A team led by an astronomer at North Carolina State University used four space telescopes to figure out why the first documented supernova was super-sized.

State's Brian J. Williams is the lead author of a study published online in the Astrophysical Journal that shows how the star evolved. The star — similar to the sun — died peacefully and turned into a dense white dwarf. It sucked up material from another star, and then exploded in a supernova.

The Chinese first documented the supernova as a "guest star" in their sky in the year 185 over the course of eight months. In the 1960s, scientists identified it as a bigger-than-expected supernova remnant, 8,000 light years away. Each light year is about 6 trillion miles.

Williams' team found that the explosion of the star took place in a cavity in space, allowing stellar shrapnel to travel unimpeded by space dusts and gases and shoot faster and farther out into the universe.

"This supernova remnant got really big, really fast," Williams said. "It's two to three times bigger than we would expect for a supernova that was witnessed exploding nearly 2,000 years ago. Now, we've been able to finally pinpoint the cause."

NASA announced the findings Monday. 


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  • Wendellcatlover Oct 26, 2011

    Not bad for a graduate of "Moo-U", huh folks? Congratulations to the NCSU alum!!!

  • haggis basher Oct 26, 2011

    ""I have an idea lets cut out the space program all together and we could have this nation out of debt in a few years."

    So you lack research and/or math abilities as well as a sad lack of imagination?
    NASA's budget is only about 20 billion a year, to put that in perspective the war in Iraq cost over 800 Billion and the development of one seriously flawed aircraft, the V22 Osprey has cost 27 Billion to date and the State of North Carolina has a budget of about 45 Billion a year..........

  • haggis basher Oct 26, 2011

    Its nice to be able view our universe through the lens of science rather than through the eyes of a stone age goat herder.

    If we put just 1% of the money and effort we waste on bleating to mythical gods, into space research we'd (as a species) be on Mars already and planning our trip to the stars.

  • soyousay Oct 25, 2011

    could have figured that out and all I have is a high school diploma.

    we could tell

  • disco2drivin Oct 25, 2011

    Good for them! We've come a long way with our scientific understanding of the Cosmos since the days of sacrificing animals and humans to appease mythical gods.

    On the other hand, after reading the comments, I realize that we still have a long way to go to bring the general public up to speed on scientific literacy. Perhaps some of you naysayers should read some books by Carl Sagan or Steven Hawking. Don't fear science. Embrace it!!!

  • bfortyme Oct 25, 2011

    Really. Another non-story. This educated guess-work cannot be labelled anything other than that.

    "Finally pinpoint the cause." That statement is ridiculous. It's thought to be true until another educated guess is labelled as truth and that guess will be the guest until another host (i meant scientist) comes along with an even bigger guess... you get the point.

  • smcallah Oct 25, 2011

    "Well... then maybe we should not base all of our "discoveries" on unproven theories?"

    What does this even mean at all? Are you just saying words to say words?

    Who even mentioned a discovery being based on a theory?

    And you people that don't understand what scientific theory actually is need to stop using the word theory to mean something that isn't true. Because that's not what it means.

  • mfarmer1 Oct 25, 2011

    Wouldn't it be nice if BP could tap the suns hydrogen, and build a big pipeline running to earth.

  • mfarmer1 Oct 25, 2011

    Great, so what does this mean for our future? When our sun blows up and goes super nova are bodies that are blasted into particles will only travel 500 light years away?

  • artist Oct 25, 2011

    " Yes, man is fallible, this is not unknown, what is the reason to comment on it? There is a reason that they're called theories, because they haven't been proven. "

    Well... then maybe we should not base all of our "discoveries" on unproven theories?

    The point of the comment is that MAN just cannot wait to claim the knowledge as his own.. his discovery!! Like naming a dinosaur after yourself.

    But the title states that an NC State Astronomer has finally solved the great mystery!! (based on unproven theories - as you so correctly pointed out).

    This is the reason for the comment.

    Did I actually need a reason? I have a theory....