Stars Explode in Earthly Skies

A look at some of the supernovas witnessed by earthlings.

By Korey Haynes|Friday, March 10, 2017
RELATED TAGS: STARS
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Cass A
NASA/CXC/SAO

About twice each century, a star in our galaxy explodes in a supernova. Only a few of those explosions happen close enough to Earth to be visible with the naked eye. By comparing ancient observations with today’s spacecraft data on supernova remains, scientists hope to nail down when those stars exploded. Here’s a look at eight supernovas that caught earthlings’ attention throughout history.

RCW 86 (A.D. 185): Chinese and possibly Roman astronomers recorded a strange new star in the skies.

G347.3-0.5 (A.D. 393): Chinese observers reported a so-called “guest star” that shone for months, appearing as bright as Jupiter.

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SN1006
NASA/CXC/SAO

SN1006 (A.D. 1006): This stellar explosion surpassed Venus in brightness and captivated skywatchers worldwide.

Crab Nebula (1054): The supernova responsible for the famous Crab Nebula lit up even daytime skies, possibly rivaling the full moon in brightness.

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3C58
NASA/CXC/SAO

3C58 (1181): The aftermath of this exploding star was visible for six months, giving Chinese and Japanese astronomers ample time to record it.

Tycho's SNR (1572): Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe recorded a clear description of this supernova, and astronomers have watched its detritus glow ever since.

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Kepler's SNR
NASA/CXC/SAO

Kepler's SNR (1604): Johannes Kepler, a German-born mathematician and astronomer, tracked this supernova for a year, lending it his name.

Cass A (1680): This star exploded nearly unnoticed, with only a possible identification by John Flamsteed, England’s first Astronomer Royal.

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