The Year 1006 Saw the Brightest Supernova Light Show Ever. It May Never Happen Again
Supernovae are the biggest explosions in space, and let us remind you that stars are exploding once every second in space. Really, things are exploding on a nonstop basis in space, but the universe is just so big we simply don't notice.
All that aside, supernovae are rarely seen from Earthâ€“without a telescope that is. In fact, only twice in history has it been recorded. However, one during the middle ages was so powerful, it lit up Earth for months.
That star is known as SN 1006 today. The explosion was the result of a cosmic merger between two white dwarfs the size of the sun. It's no wonder the explosion lit up Earth's skies for months.Â
Egyptian physician and astronomer Ali ibn Ridwan calculated the supernovaâ€™s brightness to be three times more than that of Venus.
It appears to depict the event unfolding and its position in the sky.
Frank Winkler of Middlebury College combined recent measurements of the star's chemical remnants with preexisting knowledge of the explosion in 2003. HeÂ concludedÂ that, "people could probably have read manuscripts atÂ midnight by its light.â€
Japanese observers called it a "guest star" and described it as "like Mars â€¦ bright and scintillating."
Nobody had seen anything like SN 1006 before, and nobody has seen anything like it sense. The last time a supernova was seen from Earth without a telescope was 1604, but that was nowhere near the multi-month light show of SN 1006. At least some Medieval bookworms were able to get their nightly reading down without having to light up a candle.