It’s easy to run out of superlatives and adjectives when your puny human language is trying to describe humongously-energetic events in the Universe. So now it’s down to this: a really powerful supernova is a “super-supernova.” But whatever name we give it, it’s a monster. A monsternova.
In 2016, a team of astronomers identified a supernova in data from Pan-STARRS (Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System.) The supernova was named SN2016aps, and this monsternova produced ten times more energy than a “normal” supernova. In fact, this monsternova is the most energetic supernova ever found.
SN2016aps, the monsternova, is a specific type of supernova called a ‘pulsational pair instability’ supernova. There are several different types of supernovae, and they’re distinguished by the presence of different chemical elements, and by their light curves. Also by what they leave behind.
This ‘pulsational pair instability’ monsternova is a little different. It may have formed from the result of two massive stars that merged prior to the explosion. That’s why SN2016aps’ explosive energy was ten times greater than a typical supernova.
Harvard University Professor Edo Berger is one of the co-authors of the new paper. In a press release Berger said, “SN2016aps is spectacular in several ways. Not only is it brighter than any other supernova we’ve ever seen, but it has several properties and features that make it rare in comparison to other explosions of stars in the universe.”
When it was first discovered, the monsternova had a very high magnitude. It also had a very large brightness contrast compared to its host galaxy, which had previously been undetected. For those reasons, the team of astronomers selected it for follow-up spectroscopy with the MMT Observatory. They also imaged it with the Hubble Space Telescope.
Though initially the team wasn’t certain it was a supernova, follow-up imaging showed that it was, and that it must’ve had a massive star as its progenitor. “The intense energy output of this supernova pointed to an incredibly massive star progenitor,” said Berger. “At birth, this star was at least 100 times the mass of our Sun.”
Source: “Super-supernova released ten times more energy than a regular supernova” Universe Today, 22 April 2020.<https://www.universetoday.com/145755/super-supernova-released-ten-times-more-energy-than-a-regular-supernova/>