Seeing a supernovae within hours of the explosion
For the first time ever, scientists have gathered direct evidence of a rare Wolf-Rayet star being linked to a specific type of stellar explosion known as a Type IIb supernova. Peter Nugent of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory says they caught this star – a whopping 360 million light years away – just a few hours after it exploded.
Hear more about this discovery →
How is this possible? If the star is 360 million lightyears away, how can we observe it exploding within hours of the supernova? Shouldn’t we only be able to see it 360 million years after the event?
Good question! Science Today will actually have a segment next week on this very topic.
Here’s a quote from Peter Nugent explaining what it means to observe it in real time:
"I’m speaking to you right now and you’re hearing my words in what you think is real time, but it’s not. The words left my mouth a few milliseconds before the sound waves make it to your ear. So for you it’s real time because that’s as soon as you can get it. So that’s what we’re doing even though these stars could be up to a billion light years away. It’s taken a billion years for that light to reach us — real time for us means, well, we can study that star every single second as the light reaches us, just meaning as the photons get to us. It’s no different than the fact that you think you’re talking to me in real time. But you’re not. It’s milliseconds after the fact.”