Radio supernova discovered

June 1, 2009 at 2:12 PM
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BERKELEY, Calif., June 1 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they've discovered a radio supernova -- an exploding star seen only at radio wavelengths and undetectable by optical or X-ray telescopes.

"This supernova is the nearest supernova in five years, yet it is completely obscured in optical, ultraviolet and X-rays due to the dense medium of the galaxy," said University of California-Berkeley Assistant Professor Geoffrey Bower. "This just popped out. In the future, we want to go from discovery of radio supernovas by accident to specifically looking for them."

The radio supernova was discovered April 8 in a small irregular galaxy nearly 12 million light years from Earth by the Very Large Array, a New Mexico facility operated by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

Bower said future sky surveys will look for bright, but short-lived, radio bursts from supernovas, thereby providing better estimates of the rate of star formation in nearby galaxies.

Radio emissions from supernovas also can help astronomers understand how stars explode and what happens before their cores collapse, he said.

The study that included astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, Harvard University's Center for Astrophysics and the University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands appears in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

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