Brightest supernovae are in a class of their own

Published in Nature, 8 June 2011

Some of the brightest stellar explosions in the Universe should be classified together as a new type of supernova, according to an international collaboration of researchers. The group has catalogued six explosions that cannot easily be explained by any process yet known.

When stars several times more massive than our Sun die, they explode, forming supernovae. The process varies, but the result is a massive radiation of energy that can outshine an entire galaxy. Sometimes the radiation is produced by the radioactive decay of freshly generated elements, whereas in other cases it comes from an explosive release of heat or from a collision between debris ejected from the star and material surrounding it. […]

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