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Astronomy: Blast from the past

Nature volume 456, page 548 (04 December 2008) | Download Citation


The famous supernova 1987A has a cousin. In 2001, astronomers at Pennsylvania State University working with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory spotted stellar fireworks in the Circinus galaxy, which is 13 million light years from Earth — close in astronomical terms. The blast seemed like a supernova, but, at the time, Franz Bauer could not confidently say what had set the sparks off.

A team of astronomers led by Bauer of Columbia University in New York has now confirmed that the X-ray source is a type II supernova, dubbed SN 1996cr, light from which first reached Earth a dozen years ago. The blast got steadily brighter in terms of X-rays and radio waves; both of these types of radiation were a thousand times brighter than in SN 1987A's case.

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