Thursday, December 11, 2008

December 3, 2008--"Time traveling" astronomers have decoded echoes from a centuries-old supernova, allowing them to see light from the event as it appeared when the distant star first exploded.

In 1572 Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe mistook the supernova for a new star, and he studied it extensively until it disappeared from view. Modern telescopes allow us to see the remnant of the blast, which appears like a colorful piece of cosmic algae in the above composite image.

The new study, in last week's issue of the journal Nature, is the first confirmation that Brahe witnessed what's known as a normal Type Ia supernova—when a white dwarf star in a binary system gathers so much matter from its partner that it compresses until it explodes.

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