Agriculture
New Gene Fights Potato Blight
Seeds of the Future
Fast-flying fungal spores
Amphibians
Salamanders
Tree Frogs
Bullfrogs
Animals
Ants on Stilts
A Microbe Nanny for Young Wasps
Thieves of a Feather
Behavior
Math Naturals
Brain cells take a break
Mind-reading Machine
Birds
Mockingbirds
Nightingales
Parrots
Chemistry and Materials
The hottest soup in New York
Big Machine Reveals Small Worlds
Bang, Sparkle, Burst, and Boom
Computers
A Classroom of the Mind
The solar system's biggest junkyard
Music of the Future
Dinosaurs and Fossils
An Ancient Feathered Biplane
Battling Mastodons
South America's sticky tar pits
E Learning Jamaica
2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
E Learning in Jamaica WIN PRIZES and try our Fun Animated Games
Results of GSAT are in schools this week
Earth
Less Mixing Can Affect Lake's Ecosystem
A Grim Future for Some Killer Whales
A Great Quake Coming?
Environment
Toxic Cleanups Get a Microbe Boost
The Best Defense Is a Good Snow Fence
Hazy with a Chance of Sunshine
Finding the Past
A Human Migration Fueled by Dung?
Prehistoric Trips to the Dentist
Decoding a Beverage Jar
Fish
Bass
Mako Sharks
Trout
Food and Nutrition
Allergies: From Bee Stings to Peanuts
The mercury in that tuna
Symbols from the Stone Age
GSAT English Rules
Finding Subjects and Verbs
Order of Adjectives
Who vs. Whom
GSAT Exam Preparation Jamaica
The Annual GSAT Scholarships
10 Common Mistakes When Preparing for the GSAT Math Test
Results of GSAT are in schools this week
GSAT Exams Jamaica Scholarships
Access denied - Disabled boy aces GSAT
GSAT Practice Papers | GSAT Mathematics | Maths
2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
GSAT Mathematics
A Sweet Advance in Candy Packing
Setting a Prime Number Record
Losing with Heads or Tails
Human Body
Speedy Gene Gives Runners a Boost
Surviving Olympic Heat
Music in the Brain
Invertebrates
Horseshoe Crabs
Millipedes
Scallops
Mammals
Yaks
Moose
Hamsters
Parents
How children learn
Children and Media
Raise a Lifelong Reader by Reading Aloud
Physics
IceCube Science
One ring around them all
Thinner Air, Less Splatter
Plants
When Fungi and Algae Marry
A Giant Flower's New Family
Nature's Alphabet
Reptiles
Alligators
Copperhead Snakes
Sea Turtles
Space and Astronomy
Intruder Alert: Sweeping Space for Dust
Mercury's magnetic twisters
Return to Space
Technology and Engineering
Squeezing Oil from Old Wells
A Micro-Dose of Your Own Medicine
Space Umbrellas to Shield Earth
The Parts of Speech
Problems with Prepositions
What is a Preposition?
Pronouns
Transportation
Where rivers run uphill
Charged cars that would charge
Are Propellers Fin-ished?
Weather
Arctic Melt
Warmest Year on Record
Either Martians or Mars has gas
Add your Article

A Great Ball of Fire

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s the hugest, most spectacular star explosion ever recorded, and astronomers are marveling at what they’ve just seen.

When a really big star (some are 10 times as big as our sun) runs out of fuel, it dies in a dramatic explosion called a supernova. Scientists have observed supernovas before, but this latest outburst had 100 times as much energy as a typical explosion. In just 2 months, it spit out more radiation than the sun will emit during its 10-billion-year lifetime.

Calculations suggest that the star that exploded had more than 150 times as much mass as our sun. That makes it the heaviest star on record (For comparison, our sun is more than 333,000 times more massive than Earth.).

Two teams of scientists—one led by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, the other led by researchers from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena—recently announced their observations of the eruption, now called SN 2006gy. (SN stands for “supernova.”) Astronomers had first observed the SN 2006gy last September. It lies in a galaxy 240 million light-years from Earth.

An X-ray image shows that the supernova (top right) is as bright as the center of its home galaxy (bottom left).

An X-ray image shows that the supernova (top right) is as bright as the center of its home galaxy (bottom left).

CSX

Because of SN 2006gy’s immense size, astronomers’ usual theories of star death don’t work. One popular theory, for example, says that after a supernova has blown off its steam, its core collapses into a superdense body like a neutron star or a black hole. This model can’t account for the extreme brightness of SN 2006gy.

Instead, the two teams that reported the blast propose that the huge star’s core was unusually hot. That heat, they think, caused high-energy gamma rays inside the core to destroy each other. Gamma rays help keep stars intact, so their destruction made the star unstable. The star would have then collapsed and blown up, leaving nothing behind but a huge, very bright explosion.

This type of supernova, called a pair-instability supernova, was probably common among the universe’s very first stars, scientists suspect. SN 2006gy may then be a rare, modern example of an ancient phenomenon. Eta Carinae, a star in our own galaxy, might be poised to undergo the same type of explosion, researchers say.

But there are also some problems with the pair-instability model, and still other theories are possible. For example, theorist Stan Woosley of the University of California, Santa Cruz proposes that a series of instabilities over the course of a year, rather than a single huge explosion, spewed material out of the dying star. The final blast would have then lit up all the previously ejected material. Woosley’s theory would explain the brightness without requiring that the star be so freakishly large.

Whatever the explanation for the explosion, the display it left behind was out of this world.—Emily Sohn

 

A Great Ball of Fire
A Great Ball of Fire








Designed and Powered by HBJamaica.com™