Exploding star breaks record for brightest supernova

exploding star (illustrated)

An exploding star (illustrated) detected on June 14 is the most powerful one seen to date — 600 billion times as bright as the sun.

M. Weiss, CXC, NASA

A stellar explosion first detected on June 14 is the brightest one seen so far, researchers report July 8 in the Astronomer’s Telegram. The supernova briefly shone with the light of roughly 600 billion suns, which is about five times as powerful as the previous record holder.

The star actually exploded about 2.8 billion years ago in a galaxy that sits in the constellation Indus — the light is just reaching Earth now. The outburst, designated ASASSN-15lh, appears to be part of a class of “superluminous supernovas,” extraordinarily powerful explosions whose origins are still very much a mystery. 

Christopher Crockett is a freelance science writer and editor based in Arlington, Va. He has a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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