N.C. State prof discovers young supernova

Posted May 14, 2008 2:26 p.m. EDT

— A North Carolina State University researcher has discovered the youngest known supernova in the galaxy.

Stephen Reynolds, an astrophysicist at N.C. State, led a team of researchers who suspected that a celestial object known as G1.9+0.3 was a very young supernova remnant. By comparing images of the object taken last year with some taken in 1985, they were able to confirm their suspicions – and determine that the supernova is 140 years old.

The discovery means the object is at least 200 years younger than the next-youngest known supernova, officials said, noting that its discovery could pave the way to a greater understanding of exploding stars.

Supernovae are exploding stars that drive the life cycles of galaxies. A supernova explosion disperses heavy metals, cosmic rays, and high-energy particles throughout the galaxy, aiding in the formation of new stars.

The research will appear in the June 10 edition of Astrophysical Journal Letters.