Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Super Collaboration Yields New Type of Supernova

Last week a press release was issued about an amazing supernova discovery. Supernova 2007bi was a stellar explosion (the dot circled above) of a type never before seen. Follow the link to the press release to read about the death of this star, which was at least 200-times more massive than the Sun.

It is well known that sometimes when you look for one thing you can also find something else. The astronomers at Berkeley’s Nearby Supernova Factory were part of a collaboration that allowed them to hunt for exploding stars (supernovae) using data that was collected for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking (NEAT) program as they hunted for asteroids.

This data for the NEAT survey and the Nearby Supernova Factory was collected using Palomar Observatory’s 48-inch Samuel Oschin Telescope. From 2003 - 2008 the telescope was operated robotically with data was beamed away from Palomar and eventually on to JPL & Berkeley via the High Performance Wireless Research and Education Network (HPWREN). This collaboration between Caltech’s Palomar Observatory, JPL, Berkeley and HPWREN has led to many discoveries. In the case of sn2007bi they were able to quickly alert observatories around the world and begin a long term study of this never-before-seen stellar explosion.

Stay tuned as more of these supernovae are expected to be found by Palomar Transient Factory.

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