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Astronomers Detect Largest. Explosion. Ever.

By Evan Ackerman

A star about 150 times the mass of the sun (putting it into the technical category of “freakishly massive”) has just exploded in a galaxy a mere 240 million light years away in what astronomers are calling the brightest and most powerful supernova explosion ever observed. So, when I say “just” I actually mean that it happened 240 million years ago, but anyway… It was first detected last September and is still going on, as opposed to most supernovae, which burn out after only a few days or possibly weeks. The estimated peak energy output of this thing is the equivalent of 50 billion suns.

A quarter billion light years is too far for any effect on us. It’s even too far for good pictures. But this particular event might be about to happen again right next door, a mere 7,500 light years away. A star named Eta Carinae is in the process of blowing up, and could experience a supernova literally tomorrow. Compare the picture of Eta Carinae below with the supernova animation above:

Eta Carinae

When Eta Carinae explodes, you’ll be able to see it during the day and read by it’s light at night. According to people do look at stuff like this for a living, “”Eta Carinae’s explosion could be the best star-show in the history of modern civilization.” Click here for a high resolution image of Eta Carinae, courtesy of the Hubble Space Telescope and APOD.

[ NASA Press Release ]