Supernovas, when a star dies and explodes in an extraordinary fashion, produce some of the most spectacular images to be seen in the sky. Scientists were lucky enough to capture images of this supernova at the very beginning of it's death, and they were able to record the supernova in real-time:
In a stroke of cosmic luck, astronomers for the first time witnessed the start of one of the universe's most fiery events: the end of a star's life as it exploded into a supernova.
On Jan. 9, astronomers used a NASA X-ray satellite to spy on a star already well into its death throes, when another star in the same galaxy started to explode. The outburst was 100 billion times brighter than Earth's sun. The scientists were able to get several ground-based telescopes to join in the early viewing and the first results were published in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.
"A star exploded right before my eyes," lead author Alicia Soderberg, an astrophysics researcher at Princeton University, said Wednesday in a teleconference.
She likened it to "winning the astronomy lottery. We caught the whole thing from start-to-finish on tape."
Check out this extraordinary image of the supernova (from Reuters):
In this ultraviolet image (upper L), several weeks-old Supernova 2007uy is seen in galaxy NGC2770, taken on January 7, 2008, with a close-up, X-ray image of that supernova beneath. New Supernova 2008D (R) appears onto the scene in these images taken January 9, 2008, giving scientists the unique opportunity to witness the birth of a supernova. Thanks to a fortunate observation with NASA's Swift satellite, astronomers, for the first time, have caught a normal supernova at the moment of its birth--the first instant when an exploding star begins spewing its energy into space, transforming into a supernova that during its brief lifetime will shine brighter than billions of stars combined.