New breed of supernovae is 10 times brighter than its counterparts

London, June 9: A new type of exploding supernova has been discovered that's at least ten times brighter than any known supernova, a new study involving an Indian-origin researcher says.

"We're learning about a whole new class of supernovae that wasn't known before," says Robert Quimby, a Caltech postdoctoral scholar andhe lead author of the paper.

Quimby, together with Shri Kulkarni, Caltech's John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor of Astronomy and Planetary Science and a coauthor on the paper, recently stumbled across six unusually bright supernovae using the Samuel Oschin Telescope at California's Palomar Observatory.

In addition to finding four explosions of this type, the team also discovered that two previously known supernovae, whose identities had baffled astronomers, also belonged to this new class.

The newly discovered supernovae live in dim, small collections of a few billion stars called dwarf galaxies.

The supernovae, which are almost a hundred times brighter than their host galaxies, work as a kind of backlight, enabling astronomers to measure the spectrum of the interstellar gas that fills the dwarf galaxies in which the supernovae reside, and revealing each galaxy's composition.

Once an observed supernova fades a couple of months later, astronomers can directly study the dwarf galaxy-which would have remained undetected if it weren't for the supernova.

These supernovae could also reveal what ancient stars might have been like, since they most likely originate from stars around a hundred times more massive than the Sun-stars that would have been very similar to the first stars in the universe.

"It is really amazing how rich the night sky continues to be," Kulkarni said.

The study was published in the journal Nature.

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