The Nearest Supernova Of Our Lifetime Turns 30, And Still Shines
“The supernova light brightened and then dimmed, but the surrounding gas, blown off from the supergiant, remains illuminated by radiation. As shockwaves from the explosion move outwards, they collide with interstellar material, producing brightening rings of material.”
In February of 1987, the first light from a supernova some 168,000 light years away was observed on Earth. It became the closest supernova to be observed since the invention of the telescope. As a result, it’s taught us more about massive star death, ejecta and supernova remnant evolution than any other object in the Universe. Illuminated outer rings showcase ejection events that occurred prior to the final death of the star; continued brightening teach us the rate of expansion of the supernova remnant; the lack of a neutron star at the core teaches us about the power of dust to obscure even radio light from this object. Perhaps most interestingly, neutrinos were observed from this supernova, arriving nearly three hours before the light did, confirming that they move through a star unimpeded, unlike light.