Sunday, June 5, 2022

Historical Supernova Remnant

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Astrophysics, Cosmology, History of Science, Nature of Science

Ed Hessler

A leftover from a stellar explosion is the result of the first recorded appearance of a star new to Chinese astronomers in 185 AD and is the subject of an Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD).

It is briefly described in a brief history of the supernova by Vittoria Traverso (AtlasObscura). "The first written evidence of a supernova—at least in retrospect—comes from A.D. 185, when Chinese astronomers described a “new star” resembling a “bamboo mat” that was visible in the night sky for eight months. 'It displayed the five colors, both pleasing and otherwise,' read the Book of the Later Han, a Chinese court document from the fifth century. “It gradually lessened.” 

It had long been suspected to have described a comet, until a 2006 article in the Chinese Journal of Astronomy and Astrophysics established that it was probably a supernova. The recorded observation was associated with a constellation called Nan Mun, which has led modern astronomers to believe that the event corresponds to the stellar remnant now known as SN185, between the constellations Circinus and Centaurus."

As to the type of original supernova, APOD has details on how scientists make tentative decisions based on the evidence. The remnant while "larger than a full moon on the sky" it "is too small to be seen by eye." 

An asterism is the term to describe a group of stars smaller than a constellation that often have a common name (here Nanman).

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