Division of Theoretical Astronomy, National Astronomical Observatory of Japan

Research Highlights

Rare first moment of stellar explosion captured by amateur astronomer

Unprecedented observations by an amateur astronomer revealed the exact moment when a supernova became visible in the sky. The data allowed a team of researchers to test theoretical predictions about the initial evolution of such stellar explosions. Their models indicate that the dramatically rapid brightness rise observed was due to the emergence of the explosive shockwave at the star’s surface. Such a phenomenon, known as shock breakout had long been predicted by theory and was being sought for by several groups around the globe. It required a very lucky –- and watchful –- amateur astronomer to finally catch the moment. The results were published in Nature on February 22, 2018 by the Argentine team and colleagues from Japan, USA, and Europe including Dr. Masaomi Tanaka and Dr. Takashi Moriya at DTA/NAOJ.

See the full story:
Kavli IPMU Press Release: "Rare first moment of stellar explosion captured by amateur astronomer"

Figure: Sequence of combined images obtained by Víctor Buso as SN 2016gkg arises in the outskirts of galaxy NGC 613. Labels indicate the time each image was taken. The supernova location is indicated by the red circles. Notably the supernova appears and stabrightens and steadily brightens within one hour, as shown in the lower-right panel. (Credit: Bersten et al.)

"A surge of light at the birth of a supernova", M. C. Bersten et al., 2018, Nature [Nature]

Masaomi Tanaka [personal webpage]
Takashi Moriya [personal webpage]