Thirty million years ago in a galaxy not so far, far away, a star exploded. Three years ago, light from that explosion finally made it to Earth, where scientists watched the explosion unfold from start to finish.
In a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal researchers analyzed SN 2013ej, a Supernova that was observed in 2013 in the galaxy M74, some 30 million light years away.
The star at the heart of SN 2013ej was huge. Researchers estimate that its radius alone was likely 200 times larger than the Sun, but it wasn’t that dense, with a mass just 15 times greater than our star. It lived large, but only for a short time, eventually exploding with a force to rival the simultaneous explosion of 100 million of our Suns.
“SN 2013ej probably lived tens of millions of years,” Robert Kehoe, a co-author of the paper said. “In universe time, that’s the blink of an eye. It’s not very long-lived at all compared to our sun, which will live billions of years. Even though these stars are bigger and have a lot more fuel, they burn it really fast, so they just get hotter and hotter until they just gobble up the matter and burn it.”
Kehoe and colleagues looked through the data collected from the time that the supernova was observed all the way through the next year, a total of 450 days of data.
“Supernovae have death and birth written all over them,” Kehoe said. “Not only do they create the elements we are made of, but the shockwave that goes out from the explosion—that’s where our solar system comes from.”
Supernovas spread matter throughout the universe. In this case, matter pushed out by the supernova was traveling at a breathtaking 22 million miles per hour, providing building blocks to other nascent solar systems.