King of Supernovas Sheds Light on Early Stars

By Max Brallier,  Newser User
Posted May 8, 2007 8:19 AM CDT
This artist's illustration provided by NASA shows what the brightest supernova ever recorded, known as SN 2006gy, may have looked like when it exploded. The star "is a special kind of supernova that has...   (Associated Press)

(Newser) – Researchers are reporting the biggest stellar explosion ever recorded—a discovery which could shed light on how the universe was shaped. The star, 150 times more massive than the sun, went out with a bang 100 times more powerful than typical supernovas. Astronomers think the first stars after the Big Bang, which were also gargantuan, met similar fates.

Supernovas normally occur when a star collapses under its own gravity and forms a black hole. But SN 2006gy, as one stargazer put it, "was blown to smithereens.” Understanding this could have major implications for our own galaxy—at least one massive star in the Milky Way is a powder keg for the same sort of explosion.