Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Brightest Supernova paper finally published, and its already been demoted to 2nd place

The popular science press and the science blogs went to town back in May 2007 reporting on SN 2006gy, a supernova explosion in the galaxy NGC 1260 that was detected on Earth in 2006. At the time SN 2006gy was heralded as the most luminous SN explosion ever detected.

It is common, but somewhat unfortunate, with "breaking news" about science that the press attention occurs well before the refereed scientific paper describing the results was actually published.

Well, the full, final, refereed paper "SN 2006gy: Discovery of the Most Luminous Supernova Ever Recorded, Powered by the Death of an Extremely Massive Star like η Carinae" by Smith et al was published just this week, in the September 10th edition of the Astrophysical Journal (Smith et al, 2007, ApJ, 666, 1116).

It is somewhat ironic then that in today's astro-ph preprints SN 2006gy is demoted to being the second brightest SN ever by SN 2005ap (Quimby et al, astro-ph/0709.0302). Thats right, a supernovae detected in 2005 was about twice as luminous as 2006gy. Except it'll be published second. But by the same group of researchers.

Both of these events (and a third unusually luminous but as yet unpublished SN event) were detected by the Texas Supernova Search (Quimby, R. 2006a, Ph.D. thesis, Univ. Texas at Austin).

Pretty impressive work, and evidence that unusual things still lurk out there waiting for the innovative scientist (or large team of innovative scientists and engineers) to find them.

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