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Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Portland, OR
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Originally Posted by gnome
That is SOOOO Cool!
makes me want to go star gazing. Hopefully the nasty southerly will blow through quickly so I can actually see the sky.
I'm afraid you wouldn't have seen this. Supernovae are brightest in x and gamma ray wavelengths, a good dozen octaves higher than visible light (your eyes can see a little less than one octave, from red to violet). The visible light afterglow is fainter than the galaxy they occur in, and it takes a pretty sensitive instrument to see it. The NASA article about it has pictures of the event in both x-ray and visible light:
The Swift Space Telescope that found this is pretty cool. It has one wide angle sensor that continuously watches about 1/10th of the sky. When it detects a flash of x-rays, it requests an ok from the ground within seconds and spins around at a much faster speed than other telescopes can manage to aim its high resolution instruments at event. Other instruments take hours or days to respond. Still that means Swift always misses the build-up and first 30-90 seconds of a supernova...except this time.
An interesting side story though:
A couple weeks ago NASA scheduled a press conference about a new discovery. These happen fairly often, but for some reason the press picked up on this one more than usual. From the announcement, this much was clear:
* It was something that astronomers had been searching out for over 50 years
* It was a combined effort of the Chandra X-ray space telescope and ground observatories
* It was in our galaxy
The guesses were all over the place. Aliens, killer asteroids, and the mythical planet Niribu were some of the more amusing ones. My guess was a supernova start-to-finish. It turns out it was a supernova, but the significance was merely that it was a fresh supernova remnant in our galaxy.
So my guess was wrong, but by coincidence the same thing happened anyways.
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