Most powerful supernova ever discovered: 100 billion times brighter than the sun

Call this guy the Supernova King: Astronomer Robert Quimby said today he has located a supernova that at its peak radiated 100 billion times brighter than the sun and was twice as brilliant as the previous record holder, a supernova called SN 2006gy, which he also discovered.Quimby's latest find is Supernova 2005ap, Quimby actually discovered SN 2005ap first, but extra work was needed to confirm it. This supernova is a Type II, Quimby said in a statement, because it contains hydrogen. Most Type II supernovae are thought to result when the cores of massive stars, those seven to eight times or more heavy than the Sun, collapse under their own weight and trigger an explosion. This particular Type II is 300 times brighter than average, Quimby said, and lies in a dwarf galaxy in the constellation Coma Berenices, well behind the famous Coma cluster of galaxies. Studies confirmed 2005ap’s distance of 4.7 billion light-years.“It’s clearly not the same as 2006gy,” Quimby’s colleague and supernova expert  J. Craig Wheeler of The University of Texas at Austin said in a  statement. “It’s a puzzle.”Quimby discovered SN 2005ap by using telescopes at McDonald Observatory at the University of Texas in Austin and combined them with observations from the Keck Telescope in Hawaii that were made by Greg Aldering of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.How is it that Quimby has found the brightest supernova yet, twice in a row? “I’ve worked too damn hard for this to be luck,” he said.  Quimby said he looked for exploding stars in places other astronomers avoided, such as dwarf galaxies and galaxies with active black holes at their centers.More on 2005 ap will appear in the October 20 edition of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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