A telescope accidentally captured the brightest supernova ever seen

Researchers named the recent gamma-ray burst BOAT (brightest of all time).
Loukia Papadopoulos
An illustration of a supernova.jpg
An illustration of a supernova.


The Large High Altitude Air Shower Observatory (LHAASO), designed to capture air showers, accidentally caught an image of the brightest supernova ever witnessed by humans. Researchers named the recent gamma-ray burst BOAT (brightest of all time).

This is according to a report by Ars Technica published on Friday.

LHAASO was taking data on air showers when the BOAT supernova erupted, allowing the telescope to record not only the onset of the event but also its evolution for days afterward. The result was a significant amount of data: the first 100 minutes saw over 64,000 photons detected at energies above 200 giga-electron volts.

From this information, scientists were able to extrapolate that the lower energy events of the supernova are caused by the jets interacting with the turbulent debris of the gamma-ray burst. They further deduced that debris would be both complex and near the source of the jets, effectively limiting how much space particles in the jets have to build up speed.

The BOAT supernova also witnessed a sharp drop-off of high-energy photons believed to be a result of the widening of the jets as they get further from their source. From this, researchers could speculate that the BOAT was as bright as they observed it because the central core of its jet was pointed directly at Earth, reported Ars Technica.

More about supernovas

Supernovas occur when stars die, their long lives ending with an explosion in their final stage. Supernovas are believed to be essential and are thought to be one of the sources of elements heavier than iron in the universe. This material is then expelled across space, where some of it falls down on Earth, spreading far and wide on the planet.

Therefore, supernovas are both destructive and an act of creation as they are the primary source of heavy elements in the universe. In a galaxy the size of the Milky Way, it is expected that a supernova will explode nearly every 50 years.

We have much to learn about supernovas, and this accidental discovery will go a long way in helping to inform what truly happens during these gamma-ray bursts. 

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