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Youngest Galactic Supernova Found, But No Aliens 184

Posted by timothy
from the tax-paid-striptease-from-nasa dept.
Simon Howes writes "After searching for decades, astronomers have found a supernova in our galaxy! So it wasn't little green men we were waiting for. It's located very near the center of the galaxy, about 28,000 light years away, and it's only at most about 140 years old. Quote from Bad Astronomy: 'If you're wondering what all the buzz has been about the past few days over a NASA discovery, then wait no longer. No, it's not aliens or an incoming asteroid. Instead, it's still very cool: astronomers have found the youngest supernova in the Milky Way.'" FiReaNGeL contributes a link to coverage on e! Science News; I think Wired's account of the super-hyped tele-press-conference is the funniest.
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Youngest Galactic Supernova Found, But No Aliens

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @03:25PM (#23408212)
    Obviously, the intended meaning was that the supernova exploded around 26,140 years ago, and its light just got here 140 years ago. It's pretty shocking that NASA would make such a big deal of this, and then screw up the announcement in such a major way. Epic fail.

    It is standard practice for astronomers and journalists covering astronomy to phrase findings that way. It makes life easier for them, makes for more readable news and allows Trekkies like yourself to show off. It's whatever you "epic fail" dweebs call a win-win situation.

    Thank you for not being picky, though.

  • Re:distance vs age? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ZeroExistenZ (721849) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @03:26PM (#23408230)
    This is just in! A first alien message! It's estimated to be 500,000 light years away and even more radio year.

    After years of crunching our most heavy quantum computers, we decoded;
    "HELP. WE ARE THE LAST KNOWN SURVIVING SPECIES IN THIS UNIVERSE. HELP. THEY FINALLY HAVE CREATED WEAPONS OF MASS... - NO CARRIER.".
  • Not so overdue (Score:4, Interesting)

    by EricWright (16803) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @03:28PM (#23408260) Journal
    Several different "experts" have predicted that the Milky Way should have at least one supernova every 100 years. Of course, the question has been why we hadn't seen one since 1604. I guess this ... ahem, sheds new light on the issue. As Dr. Reynolds puts it, there's too much interstellar 'gunk' out there.

    Disclosure: Dr. Reynolds was co-chair of my thesis committee, but I was doing computational astrophysics, not observational.
  • composite image (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @03:29PM (#23408290)
    That composite image looks strangely like the firefox logo.

  • by amstrad (60839) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @03:37PM (#23408396)
    People need to read about relativity of simultaneity [wikipedia.org] before trying to be smart asses and making laymen comments about events at large distances.
  • Re:Real issue here (Score:2, Interesting)

    by morgan_greywolf (835522) * on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @03:43PM (#23408508) Homepage Journal

    Why did some asshat call in to the NASA teleconference and ask about moon crickets, and when the hell did that become a racial slur?
    I dunno. You'd have to ask those stupid moon crickets that question.

  • Educate me, please. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Lucas123 (935744) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @03:47PM (#23408564) Homepage
    28,000 light years away equates rougly to 164.6 quadrillion miles. While I'm certain that the scientists are using their very best methodologies and calculations, isn't attempting to measure the age of a supernova that far away down to the year it occurred analogous to attempting to sex a fruit fly perched on a rock in the Sea of Tranquility?
  • by Pausanias (681077) <pausaniasx@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @04:01PM (#23408780)
    I think the point here is that we are recording digital images of a star as it was only 140 years after it exploded. As opposed to the crab, for which we have digital images 6500 years after it exploded. Regardless of how old the supernova "actually" is now, what matters is that the data we have shown it at age 140. Whereas for the crab, the data we have show it at age 6500.

    NASA is wrong in saying this new supernova is the "youngest" - it is actually just the MOST RECENTLY OBSERVED. The Crab Nebula supernova has it beat as "youngest", exploding occuring only 6500 years ago (and observed less than 300 years ago, in 1731) instead of exploding 28,000 years ago (and observed in 2008).
  • Re:Not so overdue (Score:3, Interesting)

    by photonic (584757) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @04:22PM (#23409102)
    The rate I heard was once every 30 years. This is the kind of explosion that LIGO and others are waiting for, since this would be a pretty easy target for observing gravitational waves. This one was at 28k lightyear or about 8 kiloparsec. LIGO has been running last year with a 'detection horizon' of about 15 Megaparsec, so this one was really at spitting distance. This is the reason why the gravitational wave community does an effort to keep at least one interferometer running at all times by scheduling the planned downtime. Even the less sensitive GEO could hear something if it blows up in our galaxy. They didn't observe anything so far (they estimate a chance of 1/100 to 1/10 per year) but this will get better after the current upgrades: increasing the horizon with a factor 10 will increase the reachable volume (and thus detection rate) by a factor of 1000.
  • by had3l (814482) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @05:11PM (#23409816)
    I'm sorry, we are all observing the event from Earth. Since we all have a common point of observation in space time, we can actually make comments about when the event took place.

    If we didn't take Earth to be our common point of reference, then it would be impossible to come up with any numbers regarding the age of the universe from example. When inquired about when the big bang happened a smart ass scientist could respond: "10 billion or 17 billion years ago, depending from where you are looking."

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