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October 9 2012

Mystery Behind Supernova SN 1006 Solved?


Historical accounts from all over the world describe a spectacularly bright "guest star" in the night sky during the spring of 1006 -- what we now know as a supernova (SN 1006). Now astronomers think they have pinpointed the probable cause of that massive explosion, one thousand years later: a merging of two white dwarf stars.

SN 1006 made quite a splash on its debut around May 1, 1006, in the constellation Lupus (the Wolf) just south of Scorpio. The critics raved! Monks in a Benedictine abbey in Switzerland marveled at the star's brightness, and commented on the variability of its light, "sometimes contracted, sometimes diffused, and moreover sometimes extinguished" -- likely due to atmospheric conditions, since the star was visible fairly low in the southern horizon.

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