Giant Supernova May Be Due to Cloud of Star Smithereens


It’s been a big week for astro-scientist types. First a gigantic supernova, then a ninth planet. We have yet to confirm the planet, but a team of scientists has now suggested a possible explanation for the supernova: a fast spinning magnetar.

When researchers announced confirmation of the record-breaking stellar explosion ASASSN-15lh last week, they mused that such a star, called a magnetar, wasn’t enough to explain the supernova’s unusual brightness. To create the energy seen in this explosion, the magnetar’s core would have to be spinning so fast that it would break apart.

But a new analysis using more detailed calculations claims it could happen, if powerful magnetic fields interacted with a big enough cloud of star smithereens.

….Previous calculations suggested that any star that could produce as much energy as ASASSN-15lh, which would outshine the moon if it were in our galaxy, wouldn’t survive long enough to become a magnetar. But now Melina Bersten of the National Scientific and Technical Research Council in Argentina and her colleagues suggest that the stellar corpse that remains after the explosion could pump extra energy into a cloud of gas surrounding it, and produce the superluminous supernova discovered last summer….That cloud of stellar leftovers would have to be pretty extreme, though: at least six times the mass of the sun.

Star smithereens? Is that a real word? Somebody help me out here.