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Astronomers Awaiting 1a Supernova

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the really-excited-space-geeks dept.

204

Aryabhata writes to tell us BBC News is reporting that astronomers have sighted a star on the brink of a "1a" supernova. This opportunity presents the first chance astronomers have ever had to view a supernova of this magnitude up close. From the article: "They are so rare that the last one known in our galaxy was seen in 1572 by the great Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, who first coined the term nova, for "new star", not realizing he was in fact witnessing the violent end of an unknown star. It has long been believed that type 1a supernovae are the death throes of a white dwarf star. But all modern ones have been so distant that it has not been possible to see what had been there beforehand."

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Don't hold your breath. (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766654)

I'll be shocked if this happens during my lifetime. And I doubt it'll happen by the end of my grandkids' lifetimes.

(And they're not even born yet.)

Actually (4, Interesting)

ArchieBunker (132337) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766658)

It happened long ago and the light is just now reaching us.

Re:Actually (0, Troll)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766672)

We don't know that from this article. For one, they don't mention how far away the star is. Two, they don't name the star, so I can't look it up. Three, evidence of a supernova could reach us anywhere in the next 100,000 years, which is about how long it takes light to reach us from the other side of the galaxy.

So if it happens tomorrow, we may not know about it for another 100,000 years. If it happened 50,000 years ago, we might see it tomorrow, or 50,000 years from now.

The article is long on grand imagery, but it's missing the information that would be important to know whether it already happened.

Re:Actually (5, Informative)

Is0m0rph (819726) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766691)

They mention the star by name many times in the article. Did you actually read it? They mention it in the first few sentences. Here's the wiki on the star: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RS_Ophiuchi [wikipedia.org]

Re:Actually (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766740)

Yes, I read it. But somehow I mised the name. Heck, I don't even remember that paragraph. /Hangs his head in shame.

Welcome! (3, Funny)

mlow82 (889294) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766952)

They mention the star by name many times in the article. Did you actually read it?
Welcome! You must be new here!

Re:Actually (5, Informative)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766698)

Actually, they do name the star. It's RS Ophiuchi [wikipedia.org] which is 1,950 light-years from Earth according to the linked Wikipedia article. It's worth a look if you are now thinking of doing some amateur astronomy since it also contains some information on some of the star's past failures at going nova and a bunch of related links.

Re:Actually (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15766734)

The distance is 1,950 -- 5,200 ly, according to Wikipedia. The distance to most stars in this distance range is quite uncertain because it is too far away for today's parallax measurements.

Re:Actually (0, Offtopic)

Bloke down the pub (861787) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766838)

the star's past failures at going nova and a bunch of related links.
So would a linux-on-the-desktop or a hurd reference be funnier here?

Re:Actually (0, Redundant)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 8 years ago | (#15767341)

It's RS Ophiuchi

Yeah, and I bet it was "discovered" by a bunch of white guys of European descent. Why can't we just name new discoveries like this what the natives actually call them?

Re:Actually (2, Interesting)

Zindagi (875849) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766724)

Google search brings up an approximate distance of 2000 light years. Thats fairly close -- but dont think the explosion can fling out material this far.

Re:Actually (4, Informative)

Telvin_3d (855514) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766749)

Well, the Wikipedia article on supernovas says
a Type Ia supernova would have to be closer than 1000 parsecs (3300 light years) to affect the Earth.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supernova#Impact_of_s upernovae_on_Earth [wikipedia.org]

So, who knows? Hollywood disaster movies might have t right after all!

Re:Actually (3, Interesting)

diskis (221264) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766819)

Yes it can.
There is nothing between us and the star.
If you were lifted out from the gravity well of our solar system, I bet you can hit the star with a rock.
Or one rock out of billions thrown. Kinda hard to hit precisely at that distance.

Re:Actually (4, Informative)

Lost Race (681080) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766791)

Why does it matter whether it "already" happened? We cannot know about it or be affected by it until the first photons reach us. If it happened 1000 years ago 1000 light years away, or 100,000 years ago 100,000 lightyears away, or yesterday 1 lightday away, it's still "happening now" as far as we're concerned.

Re:Actually (1)

cnettel (836611) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766836)

I wouldn't totally agree. There is some utility in discussing simultaneous events in relativity, it's just not very intuitive. It's even less intuitive to consider everything that you can observe by arriving EM as "now", though.

Re:Actually (2, Informative)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766792)

The speed of light is a constant in a vacuum. If it happened 1950 years ago, since the star is 1,950 light years away, we'd be seeing it today. For all practical purposes, it _is_ happening now.

Re:Actually (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766835)

We don't know that from this article.

Do an article need to *tell* you that?

All supernovas actually happened some time ago unless it's our Sun that's blowing up. :-p

Re:Actually (1)

Bloke down the pub (861787) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766852)

Even in that case. Though eight minutes isnt a very long time, I agree.

Re:Actually (1)

Siberwulf (921893) | more than 8 years ago | (#15767141)

Three, evidence of a supernova could reach us anywhere in the next 100,000 years, which is about how long it takes light to reach us from the other side of the galaxy.

So if it happens tomorrow, we may not know about it for another 100,000 years. If it happened 50,000 years ago, we might see it tomorrow, or 50,000 years from now.

The article is long on grand imagery, but it's missing the information that would be important to know whether it already happened.


Uh....Maybe I missed the entire point of your post but...

This "Evidence" has already been shifted back 100,000 years, since the only thing we can perceive of this event is what we see, which is in fact already 100,000 years old. There is no way to tell when it had happened, or even if it had. That said, if they see info on which they base the claim "Is on the brink" then I'd be inclined to believe it had already happened.

Re:Actually (3, Insightful)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 8 years ago | (#15767163)

As Zocalo pointed out, the star is 1,950 light-years away. So the burst in February happened "only" 1,950 years from now. The actual supernova may have already taken place, or it may not take place for another 100,000 years.

Which was my point.

The problem at hand is perspective. Does "it happens at time X" refer to the supernova event taking place at the star, or does it refer to our observation of the event, which would have to take place 1,950 after the event took place at the star?

To put it more generally, does the event's occurance refer to the cause of the observation, or the observation itself?

Re:Actually (1)

viking2000 (954894) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766825)

It happened long ago and the light is just now reaching us.

That it happened long ago is only true in some reference system. In other referece systems it happened just now.

Warp Drive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15766840)

The question is, can we get there fast enough at Warp 6 to observe it up close?

Re:Actually (3, Insightful)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766923)

What do you mean "long ago"? If the light hasn't reached us yet then it's not in our past light cone [wikipedia.org] and therefore it's not in our past.

What do they teach in relativity class these days?

Who the fuck modded this insightful? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15767029)

is this the discovery channel version of slashdot where pointing out the obvious is seen as informative? Come on, this isn't an eigth grade earth and space science class.

Re:Don't hold your breath. (1)

Belgarion89 (969077) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766677)

Don't worry, I'm sure they'll still be able to play DNF on Vista. If they're lucky, they'll get to play it with the light of two suns!

Re:Don't hold your breath. (1, Offtopic)

kimvette (919543) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766811)

New betting pool:

Will that star go nova first, or will DNF and Vista be released first?

Heck: will our Sun go red giant before DNF ships?

(yeah I know, ZOMG DNF is late!!111!!! is getting old)

Re:Don't hold your breath. (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 8 years ago | (#15767254)

Will the photon front be in front of or behind the Earth when astronomers lose federal funding for looking in the direction of that star?
(Don't forget about the 5 light year spread!)

Re:Don't hold your breath. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15766693)

This being slashdot, do you realize that in order to have grandchildren, you actually need to score?

Re:Don't hold your breath. (-1, Troll)

ZeroExistenZ (721849) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766708)

In a quasi infinate universe these things would happen constantly, not only once in a 225year span. (3*75, which is the human life expectency [wikipedia.org] in Western Europe and the biggest part in the US)

If the universe is 13.7 billion [wikipedia.org] years old and there is only one supernova in the universe each 226years, that would make only 60 619 469 supernovas since the origin of the universe.

wiki: [wikipedia.org]
Supernovae tend to enrich the surrounding interstellar medium with metals, which for astronomers means all of the elements other than hydrogen and helium and is a different definition than that use in chemistry. Thus, each stellar generation has a slightly different composition, going from an almost pure mixture of hydrogen and helium to a more metal-rich composition. Supernovae are the dominant mechanism for distributing these heavier elements

This means, in your words, that only 60 619 469 stellar compositionsions in the universe consist of more then hydrogen and helium alone, so also metals. Which implies aliens do not harvarst human genes and thoughts, but rather metals to build UFO's to show off to other races with their bling bling as it's so rare in the universe.

Re:Don't hold your breath. (4, Insightful)

Baddas (243852) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766747)

...that we have observed. The key answer is, that we have observed.

The radius of observation of these kinds of things is substantially smaller than infinite. Especially when you consider that earlier periods had a lower capability of observation.

So, really, we're talking about a fairly finite range of space and time in which supernovas would have to occur for them to be human-observable.

Re:Don't hold your breath. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15766750)

way to bungle the logic.

>quote:
>In a quasi infinate universe these things would happen constantly,
>not only once in a 225year span. (3*75, which is the human life
>expectency in Western Europe and the biggest part in the US)
>
>If the universe is 13.7 billion years old and there is only one
>supernova in the universe each 226years, that would make only
>60 619 469 supernovas since the origin of the universe.

first, most people have children sometime considerably sooner than their death. Accounting for reasonable overlap, it is unlikely that the complete span of three generations would be much longer than 100-120 years. But the more important part is that the grandparent poster never claimed that no supernovae would occur in his/her lifetime, but rather, it would be surprising to see *this one*. In fact, the grandparent makes no claim as to the rate of occurrence of these sorts of events. A much more reasonable assumption is the recognition that such events are rarely seen, not that they rarely happen, owing largely to the size of the universe.

Re:Don't hold your breath. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15766728)

Actually I have it on good authority that it'll happen shortly after Windows Vista ships.

U.S.A. Awaiting Democracy: +1, Helpful (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15766877)

Call 1-800-ALQ-AEDA [huffingtonpost.com] and demand the arrest, trial, conviction, and sentencing of the
world's most dangerous "leader" [whitehouse.org] .

Cheers,
K. Trout, M.D.

Re:Don't hold your breath. (1)

Kenshin (43036) | more than 8 years ago | (#15767224)

From the wikipedia article:

"The exact time period of this explosion is not known, but will likely occur within the next 100,000 years."

So you'd have some pretty long-living great-grandkids.

mmm yeah hoo boy (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15766657)

If there are any Latinas in the audience, I want to give your feet a supernova of my man batter. Serious inquiries only.

I'm a Latina! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15766782)

Hello, my name is Samantha and I hope to please you. I'm a Latina with something "extra" added: this 10 inch "detail" that I want to "introduce" to you. Yeah baby, I'm what you've always been hoping for, a Brazilian shemale!

How long?!? (2, Interesting)

TJ_Phazerhacki (520002) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766664)

This seems interesting only in the way that a man shouting about the end of the world downtown is. The timeframe involved isn't really anything to get excited about...

Wait for it... (4, Funny)

0racle (667029) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766665)

Any decade now.

Re:Wait for it... (1)

Pedrito (94783) | more than 8 years ago | (#15767193)

Any decade now? Boy, you are optimistic. Try any millennia now..

That's nice (4, Funny)

guardiangod (880192) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766666)

/. Headline: Astronomers Awaiting 1a Supernova

From TFA:
But soon, RS Oph could pass the tipping point - the nuclear flame will detonate from deep inside the star and blow it apart. How soon is not clear.

"It could be tomorrow, but most likely it'll be 1,000, 10,000, 100,000 years from now," says Jeno Sokoloski.

Wow that's some long life astronomers. I wonder if they will be around to see DNF getting release.

Stupid headline.

Re:That's nice (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15766742)

Oh get over it, you're just looking for something to bitch about. "Astronomers" is a collective noun and as long as the Earth survives people will likely be looking to the stars. If the title was "Bob Johnson, astornomer, awaiting 1a supernova" your nitpicking crapload would have a point, too bad.

Re:That's nice (1)

LoonyMike (917095) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766892)

"It could be tomorrow, but most likely it'll be 1,000, 10,000, 100,000 years from now," says Jeno Sokoloski.

This is one part of the timeframe - WHEN it will start.
The other one is - HOW LONG does it take? I mean, even if it starts tomorrow, the process might take 5000 years to complete.

Stupidity ensues.. (0)

psavo (162634) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766668)

Yeah baby, now there's some snuff on a galactic scale!

Meh, I mean come on (4, Funny)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766675)

version 1a? They aren't even in beta yet!

Re:Meh, I mean come on (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766697)

Its ok, the MPPA shut down the suprnova a while ago.
Looks like we are in for a long wait.

Re:Meh, I mean come on (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766822)

They learned that in order to appear competitive, you never label a product 1.0. ;)

Rho Casspiopiae (5, Informative)

9x320 (987156) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766679)

Rho Casspioiae [astrosociety.org] is supposedly near the brink of explosion, too, and aside from that, I remember hearing about some luminous supergiant or hypergiant expected to explode in the same constellation, Casspioia.

Coincidentally, two other supernovas have ocurred in that area, one of which was the one Tycho Brahe saw. Keep an eye on the hypergiants (see: Wikipedia's explanation of how stars are classified [wikipedia.org] )

Re:Rho Casspiopiae (-1, Offtopic)

9x320 (987156) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766681)

There's one complaint I have about Slashdot, though. The most insightful and informative comments are shoved down at the bottom, while the 'obligatory' "I for one, welcome," "In Soviet Russia," and "but does it run Linux" jokes fill up the top.

Re:Rho Casspiopiae (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766685)

You can adjust your user preferences to put the newer comments on top.

Re:Rho Casspiopiae (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766706)

To add to the sibling, you can also adjust the scores of moderated comments to get rid of the crappy jokes and other stuff.

On your preferences/comments page, look for the reason modifier and adjust as required.

Re:Rho Casspiopiae (5, Informative)

SetupWeasel (54062) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766784)

Giant stars do not produce type 1a supernovae. Type 1a SN are believed to be caused by a binary system of a giant star and a white dwarf. When the one star becomes a giant, the atmosphere can be so large that it fills its gravity well and spills material onto the white dwarf. The white dwarf, which would never be massive enough to become a supernova on its own, gains the mass from its partner at a trickle until it reaches the mass necessary for it to collapse.

Because type 1a SN are believed to occur under nearly identical circumstances, they are considered especially important in astronomy. Astronomers believe that they can be used as what they call "standard candles." A "standard candle" is a light source of known brightness. Standard candles are important, because astronomers can directly determine the distance of these sources. Certain stars already act as standard candles, but stars can only be resolved at a certain distance. A type 1a SN can be seen at such a large distance that astronomers believe they can more accurately determine cosmoloigical properties if they can determine exactly how bright one is, and how it may fluctuate under different circumstances.

Other SN are interesting, but a Type 1a SN in our galaxy might tell us a lot about the entire universe indirectly.

Re:Rho Casspiopiae (1)

9x320 (987156) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766858)

Sorry there, I was thinking of a type 1a star causing a supernova, not a type 1a supernova being caused by a binary system.

Further explanation? (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 8 years ago | (#15767047)

IANAA (I am not an astronomer), but let me guess. When you have a binary system you can guess the masses of the stars from the orbital period, and you also have an estimate of the distance between them. If the larger star is spilling material on the smaller one it's because it's exceeding its Roche radius, so you also have an estimate of its size. Is that it, or not even close?

Re:Rho Casspiopiae (1)

taniwha (70410) | more than 8 years ago | (#15767041)

more likely you're thinking of Eta Carinae [wikipedia.org] which is also expected to "go any time" (in stellar timescales) and has been playing up recently

"Supernova" (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15766682)



I have looked all over the place
But you have got my favorite face
Your eyelashes sparkle like gilded grass
And your lips are sweet and slippery like a cherub's bare wet ass

'Cause you're a human supernova
A solar superman
You're an angel with wings afire
A flying, giant friction blast

You walk in clouds of glitter and the sun reflects your eyes
And everytime the wind blows, I can smell you in the sky
Your kisses are as wicked as an F-16
And you fuck like a volcano, and you're everything to me

'Cause you're a human supernova
A solar superman
You're an angel with wings afire
A flying, giant friction blast
You're a giant, flying friction blast

'Cause you're a human supernova
A solar superman
You're an angel with wings afire
A flying, giant friction blast

CNN Story is different... (1, Informative)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766686)

According to the CNN story [cnn.com] , material from a nearby red giant star accumulates around the companion white drawf star until it blows up every 20 years or so. The last explosion was in 1985. The BBC made it sound like a rare opportunity.

In other words, this is the cosmic version of eating beans and lighting farts.

Re:CNN Story is different... (4, Informative)

SeaDour (704727) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766704)

That's a NOVA, when the accumulated mass around a white dwarf in a binary system is launched outward, which the star regularly does. This would be a SUPERNOVA, when the white dwarf within the binary system actually explodes from within.

Re:CNN Story is different... (4, Funny)

Andy Gardner (850877) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766817)

This would be a SUPERNOVA, when the white dwarf within the binary system actually explodes from within.

So that would be like eating a vindaloo and lighting farts.

Re:CNN Story is different... (5, Informative)

Phanatic1a (413374) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766970)

Nonono.

That's a nova. You've got a white dwarf, with a red giant companion star. Gas flows from the red giant to the white dwarf, accumulating there. Eventually enough builds up for fusion to begin in that accreted matter, and that causes a great increase in luminosity which we call a nova.

But that accreted mass doesn't disappear. Sure, some of it gets blown out into space, but the 'ash' of the fusion 'burn' accumulates with each cycle. Eventually, enough mass accumulates that the white dwarf star, in which fusion reactions have essentially stopped, becomes massive enough to start fusing the carbon that was created back when it was still on the main sequence.

So you have a sudden wave of carbon fusion that occurs everywhere throughout the star, causing an enormous increase in luminosity and also blowing the star apart. This is, not surprising, referred to as a 'carbon detonation' supernova, or Type 1a supernova, which is what the article was talking about. This thing's right under the critical mass at which that'll happen, so a bit more accumulation of stellar matter from its companion star, and 'boom.'

Yay!!! We're All Gonna Die!!! (1, Redundant)

Slugster (635830) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766687)

Free microwave popcorn for everybody! (-no sense in dying hungry, I always say-)

"Soon" in Galactic Terms (0, Redundant)

Rob Carr (780861) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766692)

From the Space.com article [space.com] on the 19th of July:
The white dwarf in RS Ophiuchi is near this critical limit now, but it will still probably need hundreds of thousands of years to accumulate the final bit of mass, scientists say.
In other words: don't hold your breath.

100,000 years? Saw it coming. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15766701)

I took Computer Science as a Humanities subject in college. My girlfriend took it through science. The CS courses feature the same modules, but she was able to take Astrophysics, while I took English. We both consider outselves to have a scientific leaning, though I wouldn't consider myself a "scientist" and she would.

She read the /. blurb and was bouncing (literally!) with excitement, saying "they are reporting it now, so most likely it will be in ten, twenty years - within reasonable research time". I read it and my initial thought was that these reports are being made by science types. That means that this supernova will most likely occur in about 10,000 years, but that some scientist, in a lab somewhere, has just had the bright idea of pushing his research into the media spotlight, where it should (he hopes) be interesting enough to secure him a few more years worth of funding.

From the article: "How soon is not clear [but] ...astronomers will be studying the star closely, to watch its every step towards destruction, and hoping to understand the full details of one of the heaven's great mysteries". *sigh*

My girlfriend's lack of cynicism aside, this is one of my major problems with the science community. So much is driven by a desperate need to secure funding, that science "news", most of the time, is either hypothetical, theoretical, or so far in the future that it makes no difference to the present. In these cases, when a person finds out that no actual advance has been made, he feels both disappointed and betrayed.

I am fed up with reading...

"Newsflash: No physical reason humans cant live to be 300, once the technology arrives!" *

or

"Newsflash: the universe *might* be made up of string!" *

or

"Newsflash: in 100 billion years, this star will explode!" *

etc, when the invisible postscript to every story is:

* Now that I have your attention, please give me some more funding!

Tycho Brahe (2, Funny)

Fishstick (150821) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766714)

Isn't that the guy from penny arcade [penny-arcade.com] ?

*yeah, I know

Re:Tycho Brahe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15766767)

YES!!!

Uh Oh (1)

RackinFrackin (152232) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766726)

We get to witness a supernova up close? This could be a problem.

Re:Uh Oh (1)

monoqlith (610041) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766761)

I think in this case, up close means (as a guesstimate) 1.6 kpc = 4.9370884 × 10^19 meters away.

So I guess the summary is using "up close" as a relative term. Or like with most /. headlines they didn't really think about the words they were using while they wrote it. It's not "news for English majors" after all.

"Soon" ... (5, Insightful)

kcbrown (7426) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766746)

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly hugely mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." -- the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Not only are the distances vast, the times are vast too. Stars live for billions of years. One year in the lifespan of a human is roughly comparable to perhaps 70 million years in the lifespan of a star.

So when someone says "soon" in reference to a prediction of when some stellar event is going to occur, it's likely you'll have to scale up the term by roughly the same amount. "Soon" to a human generally means within/around a day or so, so scaled up to stellar times, that would be within/around 200,000 years.

I expect that by the time this supernova happens, humans will either be unbelievably technologically advanced, or they'll be extinct.

Re:"Soon" ... (1)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766795)

I expect that by the time this supernova happens, humans will either be unbelievably technologically advanced, or they'll be extinct.


So if something/someone doesn't kill us all in the meantime, will we be advanced enough to use this as a power source?

Re:"Soon" ... (2, Insightful)

topham (32406) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766843)


Based on the current trends it will provide just enough power for one person to travel to the corner store.

Re:"Soon" ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15766850)

From Earth it'll just be a short-lived bright star. Not much power to be had, compared to the Sun.
It's ~2000 lightyears away, so given 200000 years maybe we could get closer. Not sure it's worth a 2000 year trip for a one-off event though, there's plenty of Solar power or hydrogen to fuse or we can use breeder reactors here on Earth / nearby. Impossible to predict stuff that far in advance though, look how far we've come in 100 years.

"So if something/someone doesn't kill us all in the meantime" I think you mean
"So if we don't kill ourselves in the meantime"... Humanity is the biggest threat it's ever faced.

Re:"Soon" ... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15766948)

So when someone says "soon" in reference to a prediction of when some stellar event is going to occur, it's likely you'll have to scale up the term by roughly the same amount. "Soon" to a human generally means within/around a day or so, so scaled up to stellar times, that would be within/around 200,000 years.

That depends on the star though. Giant stars for example are quite short-lived (millions of years instead of billions), and the last step in the fusing process where the whole core of a star gets converted to iron takes just a day or so.

(yes I know this isn't what's going on in this case - just providing a counterexample)

Re:"Soon" ... (1)

Austrosearch (857263) | more than 8 years ago | (#15767119)

kcbrown said I expect that by the time this supernova happens, humans will either be unbelievably technologically advanced, or they'll be extinct
Lets hope for evolve.

Re:"Soon" ... (1)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 8 years ago | (#15767325)

This is why it annoys me to hear people bleating about wanting affordable space travel within their lifetime "so that we can preserve the human race".

This supernova should be interesting (4, Funny)

Baloo Ursidae (29355) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766773)

I've never seen a star go supernova before. But if it's anything like my old Chevy Nova, it'll light up the night sky!

The star is 1,950 light years away? (5, Interesting)

Mantrid42 (972953) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766807)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supernova#Impact_of_s upernovae_on_Earth [wikipedia.org]
Speculation as to the effects of a nearby supernova on Earth often focuses on large stars, such as Betelgeuse, a red supergiant 427 light years from Earth which is a type II supernova candidate. Several prominent stars within a few hundred light years from the Sun are candidates for becoming supernovae in as little as 1000 years. Though spectacular, these "predictable" supernovae are thought to have little potential to affect Earth. Type Ia supernovae, though, are thought to be potentially the most dangerous if they occur close enough to the Earth. Because Type Ia supernovae arise from dim, common white dwarf stars, it is likely that a supernova that could affect the Earth will occur unpredictably and take place in a star system that is not well studied. One theory suggests that a Type Ia supernova would have to be closer than 1000 parsecs (3300 light years) to affect the Earth.

Shit.

Re:The star is 1,950 light years away? (2, Interesting)

Khomar (529552) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766861)

If you look at the next paragraph, things don't look so bleak.

Recent estimates predict that a Type II supernova would have to be closer than 8 parsecs (26 light years) to destroy half of the Earth's protective ozone layer.[2] Such estimates are mostly concerned with atmospheric modelling and considered only the known radiation flux from SN 1987A, a Type II supernova in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Estimates of the rate of supernova occurrence within 10 parsecs of the Earth vary from once every 100 million years [3] to once every one to ten billion years.[4]

While this supernova could affect the earth, the affect would probably not be catastrophic. We would probably have a great light show and some communication interference, but our existence would not be threatened.

Re:The star is 1,950 light years away? (1)

Mantrid42 (972953) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766868)

But thats a Type II.

Re:The star is 1,950 light years away? (1)

Durinthal (791855) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766944)

At least you have 1,950 years to get out of the neighbourhood.

Re:The star is 1,950 light years away? (1)

Zindagi (875849) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766959)

Only in this case. Except that you wouldnt know about it. Crap. *Takes out a towel*

Re:The star is 1,950 light years away? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15767003)

Time for humans to start relying heavily on our natural skills... we need to 'jack a passing alien spacecraft and haul ass out there to see for ourselves... because as humans we excel at vehicle jacking and staring at catastrophic events (like road accidents).

Re:The star is 1,950 light years away? (4, Interesting)

KylePetty (990568) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766983)

Before everyone goes nuts saying our goose is cooked. It appears that not all sources agree as to the distance of this star. While some sources claim the star is 1,950 light years away, others claim it is as much as 5,000 light years away. http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20060722/fob8. asp [sciencenews.org] On referring to RS Ophiuchi, ScienceNews states: "That finding could have two interpretations, suggests the report's coauthor Richard Barry of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. If the star system resides at about 5,000 light-years from Earth, then the emissions reflect a mysterious, dense reservoir of material surrounding the two stars. If the system lies at only about one-third that distance, then the emission may for the first time be revealing a short-lived epoch during which the white dwarf, soon after its outburst, becomes as bloated as its red giant partner." Sites like Space.com claim it is 5,000 light years away, while Wiki has it pegged at 1,950. Meanwhile, the Harvard Gazette reports that: "When do scientists think the Ophiuchi supernova will rock the universe? Of course, no one knows enough about what goes on out there to say. But the best guess is it will take thousands of years for the final bit of gas to accumulate and blow the white dwarf away. Meanwhile, these reports should stimulate many more astronomers to focus their attention on the constellation Ophiuchi." So... I think it's a bit premature to claim we are doomed.

Re:The star is 1,950 light years away? (1)

A Brand of Fire (640320) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766997)

Well, the up-side to that is, if it can have deleterious effects on Earth, its environment, or our other solar neighbors, we'll at least have 1,950 years to prepare for it.

Re:The star is 1,950 light years away? (1)

postmortem (906676) | more than 8 years ago | (#15767055)

considering that it takes 1950 years for effects to be sen, we have 0 years from the time we detect the supernova.

1572 is a long time ago? (2, Interesting)

maximthemagnificent (847709) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766814)

On the timescales they're discussing the 1572 sighting was "last year"!

Re:1572 is a long time ago? (1)

Brandee07 (964634) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766851)

"last week" might be more accurate.

Gamma Ray burst = earth fried (1, Funny)

Danathar (267989) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766823)

Not to rain on anybodies parade, but if that supernova sends a gamma ray burst in our direction. We can kiss our asses goodby....

Have a nice Sunday!

Re:Gamma Ray burst = earth fried (1)

cnettel (836611) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766844)

Will the radiation turn us into mega-agile mutants before we die? Wow!

Re:Gamma Ray burst = earth fried (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15766862)

Hulk SMASH! But want to finish Kingdom Hearts 2 before planet lifeless.

Re:Gamma Ray burst = earth fried (3, Interesting)

istartedi (132515) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766986)

IANAExpertOnThisCrap, but... if the burst lasts less than 12 hours, at least a north-south slice of the planet would be spared. If it's just a few minutes, only half the planet would be "fried", and if the Pacific Ocean happens to be facing it, then it's only bad for the relatively small island population, but if Eurasia is facing it, that's gonna be really really bad.

Of course, that's based on the event being near the plane of the ecliptic. If the event was near a pole, then one of either the North or South hemispheres is fried, the other is spared.

I'm also assuming that the gamma rays aren't powerful enough to turn surface matter into radioactive isotopes that pollute the atmosphere and ocean, or to do that to the atmosphere itself. In that case, it's more proper to say that the Earth is poisoned, not fried.

Re:Gamma Ray burst = earth fried (3, Funny)

Goldrush (888847) | more than 8 years ago | (#15767095)

Not to rain on anybodies parade, but if that supernova sends a gamma ray burst in our direction. We can kiss our asses goodby.... ...and get new big, mean, and green ones.

Pain at the Pump (Re:Gamma Ray burst=earth fried) (2, Funny)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 8 years ago | (#15767307)

Not to rain on anybodies parade, but if that supernova sends a gamma ray burst in our direction. We can kiss our asses goodby....

It won't make gasoline more expensive, will it?

Although I'm sure technology will have advanced by then to let me use gamma rays to run my Hummer.

First thing I thought of... (1)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766846)

"May the best sentience win."

(Psst: obscure nerdy reference.)

What lag time. (1)

Chatmag (646500) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766856)

"It could be tomorrow, but most likely it'll be 1,000, 10,000, 100,000 years from now," says Jeno Sokoloski.

I'll never complain about lag on IRC again!

tycho (2, Funny)

minus_273 (174041) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766901)

"They are so rare that the last one known in our galaxy was seen in 1572 by the great Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe"

from what i heard, Gabe was pretty pissed about not being invited to it. Apparently he also looked at his neighbor with a telescope ans stole a haribrush she thre out as well.

Re:tycho (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15767168)

I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought that.

I was playing Civ 4 and had a Great Scientist (Tycho Brahe) show up. I nearly shat myself.

Then I remember, "No, wait. That's real. Nevermind, move long..."

Wikipedia says... (1)

flynns (639641) | more than 8 years ago | (#15766973)

From TFW:

It is expected that its mass will continue to increase to beyond this limit; at which point a type Ia supernova will occur and destroy the star system in a spectacular explosion that will be visible from the Earth for several days, even after sunrise. The exact time period of this explosion is not known, but will likely occur within the next 100,000 years.

Whoa.

Range of lethality (4, Interesting)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 8 years ago | (#15767185)

I'm curious. At what range would a Type 1a supernova be lethal to life on Earth?

As far as the size of the galaxy is concerned, 1,950 light-years is essentially in our back-yard. Keeping with scale, are we talking about a firecracker or a stick of dynamite?

Re:Range of lethality (5, Informative)

zepol (697768) | more than 8 years ago | (#15767308)

While this doesn't directly answer your question, you might find the following interesting. Steven Dutch, a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay has estimated what would happen if the sun were to go supernova [nagt.org] . Some highlights: the radiation flux on the daylight side of the earth would be the same as if our entire nuclear arsenal were to go off once per second at a distance of one kilometer. The reflected light from the full moon would be 10,000 times brighter than the sun; Venus would shine six times as intensely as the normal sun. The earth vaporize in a matter of days.

By the way, the sun will never become a supernova. The calculations are illustrative only.

It would be nice if we got one.... (2, Interesting)

Starker_Kull (896770) | more than 8 years ago | (#15767269)

We've had supernovas recorded throughout human history; Wikipedia lists ones occuring in our galaxy (meaning, close enough to be easily observable) in 1006, 1054, 1181, 1572, 1604, and I remember from other sources that several were observed during Roman times. It seems that we've been "unlucky" in that ever since we've started to have precision astronomical instruments, we haven't had one go off in our galaxy. It would be really interesting if we would finally get one in modern times - and since they seem to go off about every 200 years or so, it doesn't seem that unlikely we might get one in our lifetimes. So here's to a little optimism!

Penny-Arcade Found a Supernova? (1)

Dinglenuts (691550) | more than 8 years ago | (#15767273)

The article says that the last supernova was discovered by Tycho Brahe from Penny Arcade. Hawesome!
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