SN2016aps: The Brightest and Most Massive Supernova ever Detected

Biggest supernova explosion.
Supernova exploding.

When astronomers discovered the SN2016aps supernova in 2016, they knew they were dealing with something colossal, though not exactly what its magnitude was.

SN2016aps is the brightest and most massive supernova

It was discovered in 2016 by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) observatory in Hawaii. The supernova is located in a galaxy about 3.6 billion light-years from Earth.

SN2016aps is so bright that it outshone the entire galaxy for more than two years. It is estimated to be 10 times brighter than a typical supernova. The explosion released an enormous amount of energy, equivalent to the explosion of 100 million Suns.

The cause of SN2016aps is still not fully understood, but it is thought to be a type of supernova called a pulsational pair-instability supernova. PPISNs occur when a very massive star collapses and explodes. The collapse of the star’s core produces a shock wave that travels through the star’s outer layers. This shock wave heats up the gas to extremely high temperatures, causing it to emit a vast amount of radiation.

SN2016aps is a rare and extreme event. Its discovery has helped astronomers to better understand the death of very massive stars. The study of SN2016aps could also help us to understand the formation of black holes and neutron stars.

Here are some other interesting facts about SN2016aps:

  • It is the first PPISN ever to be observed directly.
  • It is the most luminous supernova ever seen in the Milky Way galaxy.
  • It is the most distant supernova to have been studied in detail.
  • Its discovery has helped to confirm the existence of PPISNs, which were previously only theoretical.

SN2016aps is a remarkable astronomical event that has helped us to learn more about the death of stars and the formation of black holes and neutron stars. It is a reminder of the vastness and beauty of the universe, and of the power of scientific discovery.

Link – The Most Extreme Explosion in the Universe

What was discovered?

Researchers from the Harvard & Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. And the universities of Birmingham, Northwestern Ohio identified the supernova for the first time in 2016. Using data from the Panoramic Sounding Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS).

Over the next four years they tracked their slow evolution and release of energy.

An illustration of a supernova similar to SN2016aps.
Scientists believe that two stars merged in the case of SN2016aps. Image copyright Reuters.

Matt Nicholl of the University of Birmingham and lead author of the study, explains that the study revealed a disturbing story of the parent star.

“We determined that in the last few years before it exploded, the star threw out a huge shell of gas as it throbbed violently. The collision of the debris from the explosion with this huge shell led to the incredible brilliance of the supernova. Essentially it added fuel to the fire.”

That is why the SN2016aps supernova radiated 50% more energy than a typical supernova. Something that is considered “unprecedented” in the study of these phenomena.

The high level of hydrogen gas in this cosmic event was also surprising.

An illustration of a supernova
The SN2016aps radiated 50% more energy than a typical supernova. Image copyright Science Photo Library.

Massive stars generally lose most of their hydrogen to stellar winds. Such as those that reach Earth from the Sun long before approaching their burst event.

“That SN2016aps clung to its hydrogen led us to theorize that two less massive stars had fused together. Since lower-mass stars retain their hydrogen longer,” Berger explains.

The new star, born from the fusion. Charged with hydrogen and was also high enough in mass to cause instability.”

N2016aps: What does this finding imply?

First, the very fact of discovering and analyzing it is enriching, as these types of supernova explosions are incredibly rare.

Remains of a supernova explosion
In one of the supernova explosion processes, the star collapses under its own gravity when its fuel run out.  Image copyright Science Photo Library.

It is not trivial to remove such a needle in a haystack in real time. And that it can be studied in great detail.

Another point to note is that this is the first time that a supernova has offered evidence to support the pulsating pair instability theory.

“This is the first supernova we’ve seen that fits this theoretical idea,” says the astrophysicist.

And third, this finding will also allow science to understand how the first generations of stars originated.

“With the Great Synoptic Tracking Telescope (LSST) we can find such explosions that occurred in the first 1 billion years in the history of the universe,” says Berger.

Leave a Reply