London, December 3 (ANI): Astronomers have witnessed the biggest star explosion yet, that is thought to have generated more than 50 Suns' worth (1032 kilograms) of different elements, which may one day go on to make new solar systems.
According to a report in Nature News, the explosion - dubbed SN2007bi - was spotted as part of a digital survey to hunt for supernovae at the Palomar Observatory near San Diego, California.
One supernova in particular was very unusual, recalls Avishay Gal-Yam, an astronomer at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, a member of the survey team.
"This is definitely something we haven't seen before," he said.
The blast was first seen on April 6, 2007, but unlike most supernovae, which fade over a matter of weeks, this one burned steadily for months.
"It was very, very slow. I came back after a week, after two weeks, after a month and five months and it was still about the same brightness," said Gal-Yam.
Follow-up observations with some of the world's most powerful telescopes - including the W. M. Keck Observatory atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and the Paranal Observatory in Chile - revealed a supernova unlike any other.
Gal-Yam and his colleagues report that the explosion was probably that of a supermassive star, at least two hundred times the mass of the Sun.
The type of supernova that it produced - a 'pair-instability' supernovae - had been predicted by theory, but never observed.
The explosion generated several Suns' worth of radioactive nickel-56 and vast quantities of other lighter elements, such as carbon and silicon.
Gal-Yam said that it is the radioactive decay of the nickel that kept the explosion glowing for months.
"This is definitely something we haven't seen before. There are no such stars seen in our galaxy or other nearby galaxies. It's a rather spectacular star," he said.
Pair-instability supernovae have been predicted for decades, but none has been seen until now, according to Norbert Langer, an astrophysicist at the University of Bonn in Germany.
In addition to providing confirmation of an old theory, the new supernova could provide insight into the early Universe. (ANI)