Most-Luminous Supernova Discovered, Brighter Than Milky Way

First Posted: Jan 21, 2016 10:43 AM EST

Astronomers have discovered one of the most luminous supernova, known as ASAS-SN-15lh. In this new study, the researchers made their observations with the All Sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae team (ASAS-SN).

During the past twenty years, astronomers have identified a rare type of super-luminous supernovae, which are 100 to 1,000 times brighter than a typical supernova. These super-luminous supernovae are powered by magnetars, which are neutron stars with very powerful magnetic fields. This high magnetism generates the supernova's massive luminosity. It is often difficult for astronomers to detect super-luminous supernovae since they are rare and supernovae in general tend to have lower luminosity.

"We spotted a newly occurring explosion in a galaxy of an unknown distance. Subsequent observations-including those made at our Las Campanas Observatory...allowed the team to confirm the existence of the supernova ASAS-SN-15lh," Benjamin Shappee, coauthor of the study, said in news release.

Most supernovae contain low amounts of hydrogen. ASAS-SN-15lh is a quite unusual supernova as it is two times more luminous than other supernovae that have been discovered. ASAS-SN-15lh was 50 times more luminous than the Milky Way galaxy, according to the researchers

"The astounding amount of energy released by this supernova strains the magnetar-formation theory," Shappee said. "More work will be necessary to understand this extraordinary object's power source and whether there are other similar supernovae out there in the universe."

The findings of this study were published in Science.

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