Stellar explosion in 1054 C.E. may have been a third flavor of supernova

June 29, 2021

Galaxy NGC 2146 with bright supernova A Hubble Space Telescope image of the starburst galaxy NGC 2146 showing the position of the supernova SN 2018zd (large white dot on right), which was first detected in 2018. The stellar explosion is a smoking gun for the existence of electron-capture supernovae, a third type of exploding star. (Composite image courtesy of NASA/STScI/J. DePasquale and Las Cumbres Observatory)

A team of astronomers including UC Berkeley professor Alex Filippenko have found convincing evidence that supernovae come in a third flavor, powered by a long-suspected explosive mechanism that may explain a bright supernova humans observed 1,000 ago and that birthed the beautiful Crab Nebula.

The evidence is an exploding star observed in 2018, the first that fits all six criteria for a hypothesized type of supernova called an electron-capture supernova.

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