Supernovas in History

Lesson 1, Topic 4
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Supernovas in History

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Directions: Before you start, listen to part of a talk in an astronomy class.

*Vocabulary is sometimes provided in written form when it may be unfamiliar to the student but essential for understanding the lecture


Supernovas in History - Transcript

Although many supernova explosions in our own Galaxy have gone unnoticed, a few were so spectacular that they were clearly seen and recorded by sky watchers and historians at the time. We can use these records, going back two thousand years, to help us pinpoint where the exploding stars were and thus where to look for their remnants today.

The most dramatic supernova was observed in the year 1006. It appeared in May as a brilliant point of light visible during the daytime, perhaps 100 times brighter than the planet Venus. It was bright enough to cast shadows on the ground during the night and was recorded with amazement and fear by observers all over Europe and Asia. No one had seen anything like it before.

Astronomers David Clark and Richard Stephenson have looked through records from around the world to find more than 20 reports of the 1006 supernova. This has allowed them to determine with some accuracy where in the sky the explosion occurred. They place it in the modern constellation of Lupus; at roughly the position they have determined, we find a supernova remnant, now quite faint. From the way its materials are expanding, it indeed appears to be about 1000 years old.